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Company building roads to proposed windmill sites in Madison, Oneida counties

Construction has started on a 3,500-acre wind farm spanning four towns in Madison and Oneida counties.

Workers have been moving earth on Crow Hill Road in Eaton for weeks, building access roads that will be used when Citizens Airtricity Energy brings in equipment for its 23-turbine wind farm this spring.

The construction comes as the British-based energy company negotiates payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements with the towns and school districts in Eaton, Madison and Stockbridge, as well as Augusta, in Oneida County.

“It makes sense to make that relatively small investment,” project manager Doug Colbeck said of the roads. “(The project) is still not a done deal, but we’re proceeding as if we’re going to get the project done.”

If all goes as planned, Colbeck said, turbine equipment should arrive in April or May and the windmills should be spinning by July 1.

“If we have good weather in the spring, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the project up and running in July,” Colbeck said.

Airtricity’s project has been in the works since spring 2005, and Colbeck said the final hurdle will be coming to PILOT agreements by the end of January. Developers can keep windmills off property tax rolls for up to 15 years as part of the state’s effort to encourage green energy development. Rather than pay taxes based on the wind turbines’ as-

sessed value, developers can negotiate monthly payments to local governments and school districts.

Airtricity has given the towns $50,000 to hire an expert to review their financial portfolio, so that they know how much money is available for the tax agreement, said Jack Miller, county planning director. The practice of using consultants to negotiate PILOTs is becoming more common in the windmill siting process, Colbeck said.

The 27 windmills currently spinning in Fenner and Madison went up without the aid of a financial consultant. PG&E Generating agreed to pay $30,000 in annual installments in lieu of taxes to both the town of Madison and the Madison Central School District. The town of Fenner receives $150,000 from the operators of its 20 windmills.

Fenner Supervisor Russ Cary advocated the temporary property tax waiver to bring more development to rural Madison County.

“In 15 years, (the windmills) will be on the town tax rolls,” he said. “They’re the only thing we have right now to develop these lands in a productive way.”

Two other wind projects are also in the planning stages in Madison County: West Hill Windpower is working to get permits in Stockbridge, Smithfield and Lincoln for its 25-turbine project, and private developer David Senehi is working with the Fenner Planning Board to put five windmills on his 100-acre farm.

By Alaina Potrikus
Staff writer
apotrikus@syracuse.com or 470-3252