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Developer sees windfall for communities

Windmills haven’t moved into downtown Oneida, but a developer with new ideas about how municipalities can benefit from the green power source has arrived.

Empire State Wind Energy opened its office at Main Street and Farrier Avenue in August. Nine months later, the company is courting more than a dozen communities around New York state that want to get involved in the green energy movement, including the Madison County townships of Georgetown and DeRuyter.

President Keith Pitman, who co-founded the company with the backing of Rochester businessman Tom Golisano, said his company will share 75 percent of its profits with the host communities where it plants windmills a vast difference from other deals in Madison County where payments have been distributed to towns and school districts on a per-megawatt basis and have amounted to a very small portion of the company’s net revenue.

Pitman said his company’s philosophy will give New York municipalities more control as windmill projects continue to grow control that can be missing when foreign companies or big-business subsidiaries come to town to build turbines, he said.

“We want to capture that money and keep it in New York, keep it in the local economy,” said Pitman.

Pitman, who worked for municipal utility companies in Sherrill and Massena before starting his own engineering and business consulting practice, said windmills can work as municipal ventures that benefit all residents.

“If the energy market goes through the roof, so will our profits,” Pitman said. “If a developer thrives, why shouldn’t the community? If we do well, so will the communities. It’s true profit-sharing.”

The company settled in Oneida because of its central location. It decorated the walls of the office with murals of windmills, created by a Sherrill artist. Pitman and his staff have been pitching their ideas to townships across the state, with projects in the preliminary stages in Wayne, St. Lawrence and Sullivan counties.

Pitman said he hopes his company will be successful by being upfront about the perceived disadvantages of wind power, like changes to the landscape, noise and environmental impacts, and encouraging residents with questions to check out established wind farms before making any decisions.

“This will change the look of a community forever,” Pitman said. “It’s something to be taken very seriously.”

By Alaina Potrikus
Staff writer


2 May 2007