Empire State Wind Energy may develop a large-scale wind farm in eastern Wayne County in addition to the smaller projects already under discussion in Lyons and Sodus.
Keith Pitman, CEO of the Oneida-based company, met Thursday with representatives from Rose, Huron, Wolcott and Butler and said yesterday that all seemed interested in working together to bring wind power to their towns.
Backed by Tom Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex, Empire State says it will build only projects acceptable to host communities and return most of its profits to them through taxes, payments-in-lieu-of-taxes and fixed-cost energy sales. In other recent presentations to area town and village boards, Pitman has said that the company will pay for the turbines and assume the financial risk of operating them.
“I think it’s something that we can’t not get into and go for,” said Huron Supervisor John Young, who attended the meeting. “If it’s going to reduce our tax rate and our taxes in the town, hooray!”
The four towns are interested in a project larger than the wind farm in Fenner, Madison County, which includes 20 1.5-megawatt turbines, Pitman and Young said.
The final project scale depends on how well the wind farm could connect to existing power lines, how strong the wind is and how much land is available, but town leaders are interested in building as big as possible, Pitman said.
“We don’t know yet,” he said. “[But] what they’ve done is set the threshold of let’s think big.”
Early indications are positive for wind power proponents.
“You’re getting up into a pretty stiff wind situation, which is good,” Pitman said. “There’s some nice rolling hills.”
He said his company has also heard from many local landowners interested in hosting turbines on their property.
Young described himself as enthusiastic about wind power and said he believes officials from the other towns feel the same way.
But the towns and Empire State must still work out many details, he said, including how any revenue from a wind farm would be distributed.
Because a large-scale project might cross town lines, Empire State plans to treat the four towns as a single project. And that means the towns will have to cooperate.
Young doesn’t foresee a problem.
“I think the four towns can work together fairly good,” he said. “We’ve worked pretty good with Rose on the water system we’re putting in.”
Since it was founded in July, representatives from Empire State have visited towns and villages across Wayne County, promoting wind power and the company’s business model. Pitman has spoken in Williamson, Walworth and Newark, where the school board and village have expressed support for a small-scale project.
Boards in Lyons and Sodus have also heard from Pitman, who spoke with Golisano at a community meeting in September at Lyons’ Ohmann Theatre.
“The projects there would probably be a bit smaller [than in the four eastern towns],” Pitman said. “For instance, a project similar to Fenner would probably be very appropriate for a town like Lyons.”
Assuming all goes well, it takes about two years to plan and build a wind farm, Pitman said.
By Jim Miller
Finger Lakes Times
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