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Legislator pushes for more wind projects

Some Herkimer County officials are looking into other options for wind-power projects in the county.

County Legislator John Brezinski is proposing Herkimer County:

* Develop a wind project on its own,

* Work in partnership with a neighboring county to develop a project or

* Find a development company that would give the county a high percentage of revenue made from the project.

At this point, not enough information is available to know what the county will consider or how it will affect proposed projects in the county, said other legislators.

Seeking more revenue

Developers for currently proposed projects have discussed operating using payment in lieu of taxes agreements but not giving the county, municipalities and school districts shares of the revenue. This means the company would be making millions of dollars, while the county only makes hundreds of thousands of dollars, Brezinski said.

“I think Herkimer County can do better,” he said. “I think, if at all possible, we should be building them ourselves.”

Several county officials met Thursday with Empire State Wind Energy President Keith Pitman to gain information about how much revenue can be made from wind projects, Brezinski said.

Pitman told county officials he would be able to give the county 75 percent of the revenue if he did a large project for the county, said Herkimer County

Administrator James Wallace. That’s 10 to 20 times as much money as other developers are offering, Wallace said.

Power for HCCC

Also discussed was the possibility of a small wind project that would place a few turbines near Herkimer County Community College to help power the college and possibly other county facilities, Wallace said.

The small project seems feasible, but still needs to be looked further into, Wallace said.

Officials asked Pitman to submit a written proposal to the county for review, Legislator Robert Hyde said.

After just one meeting, not enough information is available to know if the county will consider a project with Empire State Wind Energy or anything about how this could affect other proposed projects in the county, Hyde said.

“On the surface, it seems like a good idea,” he said.

Empire State Wind Energy, which is based out of Oneida, is starting a feasibility study for a wind project in Frankfort, village Mayor Frank Moracco said.

Frankfort town officials submitted a letter Thursday to village officials saying
they’re on board for the project, so Moracco plans to sign a contract with the developer soon, he said.

Getting more on board

Brezinski said he hopes to invite Pitman back for another meeting with all the legislators.

“I want Herkimer County to really sit down and analyze this,” Brezinski said.
Brezinski said he thinks the county should try to make it so that any project
it’s involved with developing will produce electricity to be used locally instead of sold to other areas. This could bring down electricity costs and attract businesses to the area, he said.

“We need to use our natural resources,” he said.

Pitman couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

The developers behind projects proposed in Jordanville and Fairfield also couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

Friends of Renewable Energy member Carole Kowall of Jordanville said it would be a huge risk for county taxpayers if the county decides to try to develop a project on its own. Wind turbines can cost $2 million to $4 million each, and a project would be a significant capital investment for the county, she said.

There are many costs involved with building, operating and maintaining the turbines, Kowall said.

Wind projects don’t start making revenue above the investment until after a double-digit number of years, she said. How long it takes to gain revenue depends on the size of the project, she said.

By Bryon Ackerman

The Observer-Dispatch

23 December 2007