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Frankfort weighs proposed wind project

The wind is starting to pick up in support of a proposed $30 million wind project for the town and village of Frankfort.

Town officials visited the Village Board meeting Thursday night to hear a presentation on the project, which could include 10 wind turbines, village Mayor Frank Moracco said.

The project, on a smaller scale than other Herkimer County wind projects such as the proposed 68-turbine project in Jordanville, would help supply Frankfort’s energy and produce extra energy to be sold back to the grid to help offset other energy costs, Moracco said.

John Wallace was one of two town councilmen assigned to attend Thursday night’s meeting, and he said he will take the information back to be discussed with the Town Board.

“I don’t think it’s an opportunity we should pass up,” Wallace said. “I think we should look at it.”

Village officials and developer Empire State Wind Energy already completed feasibility studies and wanted to see if town officials would like to be involved before moving forward with the next set of studies, which will cost the developer $150,000 to $200,000, Moracco said.

Public hearings and resolutions from the town and village would be required before the project moves forward. After that, studies will be conducted, and it would take about two years for the project to be completed, Moracco said.

Possible environmental and aesthetic impacts will be among the factors considered, he said, which would play a role in determining the size and placement of the turbines.

“This isn’t something that we’re going to make a quick decision on,” he said.

Frankfort resident John Schuyler, 58, has lived in the village for 27 years and believes the wind project would be cost beneficial, he said.

Schuyler knows that some people consider the turbines to be an eyesore, but his feelings on the possible project are much different, he said.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he said. “I’m really confused as to why people oppose it. I don’t understand it.”

Moracco said it’s important to combat increasing energy costs because when businesses consider moving into an area, the cost of utilities is most likely important to them.

If the town decides not to participate, the village and the developer will look into the feasibility of continuing without the town, he said.

The developer would cover all testing and construction costs, which will depend on the number of turbines – with each turbine costing about $1 million, he said.

Overall costs would be about $30 million if 10 turbines are used, said Keith Pitman, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Wind Energy.

The municipalities would receive the majority of profits from selling the energy, Pitman said. His company will receive federal production tax credits, he said.

Plans for taxation have not been established, but it’s possible a payment in lieu of taxes deal will be worked out, he said.

The company also will offer Frankfort the opportunity to share ownership with an option to take over complete ownership in 10 to 15 years. The decision would be Frankfort’s. This makes sense for the company because they would no longer be receiving the federal tax credits, he said.

Resident Bob Harris, 47, said he’s happy with the current energy system and the charges he pays for it. But he isn’t concerned about the turbines’ appearance and likes the idea of using clean energy to keep the cost of energy down, he said.

“If they’re going to put something into place that will keep it from going up in the future, I’m all for that,” he said.

By Bryon Ackerman

The Observer-Dispatch

20 July 2007