It seems Arkwright and Westfield aren’t the only areas in the county to be deemed “wind worthy.” Wind energy companies have become interested in the town of Pomfret and have even begun to contract with land owners surrounding the Fredonia-Stockton Road area.
“Actually there was a group of landowners who contacted us. We were interested in the obvious characteristics of the location, a few things looked promising with those being: transmission, lack of dense population and of course willing and interested landowners,” said Peter Gross of Babcock and Brown. “We did some meteorological analysis and saw that this was probably worth something worth pursuing. Every once in a while something comes at you when you’re not looking.”
A majority of landowners in the vicinity of Hahn Road, Bachellor Hill Road and Fredonia-Stockton Road within the town of Pomfret have signed agreements with Babcock and Brown. The group of large landowners actually reviewed three different contracts with three different companies before making their decision.
“We were being pursued by one company (Horizon), we worked with them for several months and they didn’t budge on any of the issues that we had with them,” said Hahn Road resident Dianne Elliot, who made the call to Babcock and Brown. “Everything had been taken to a lawyer (Daryl Brautigam of Fredonia) and there were three companies and three contracts reviewed.”
We sat with the first company where we thought our loyalty lied with and we told them there were other companies in the area and we asked again for a few things to be changed and at one point the representative said if you don’t like the contract then don’t sign it.”
One land owner who wished to remain anonymous, commented that contracts had to be thoroughly looked into before making a final decision.
“They could mortgage your property if they wanted to. Also something like if they install a roadway across your property and you’re allowed to use it too, but, if their truck may damage it you are still responsible for paying half of the cost for repairing it,” the person said. “There were a lot of negative loop holes for the land owners.”
This project isn’t going to be one that happens over night. According to Gross, there is no set timeline for the next set of phases which first includes receiving a permit from the Pomfret Town Board to install and operate one to two MET (meteorological) towers in the area.
“There’s how long does it take to do the environmental work, there is interconnection into the utility which needs to be researched and then you have to figure out which wind turbine will work best at the site and hope it’s available from the manufacturer according to the time in which you want,” he said. “It can easily take up to four years before you start construction. Hopefully we’ll do it in less then that.”
The town’s Wind Energy Conversion System law, which was passed in June, 2007, includes guidelines and regulations from municipal fees to setbacks and even post construction rehabilitation.
“I think we’re ready. I think the zoning is laid out to go through the process. It’s not something that happens quickly, but I think we’re ready for it,” said Pomfret supervisor Don Steger, who said he did receive an application for the permitting process from a wind energy company. “It will be interesting to see what the town portion, whether a PILOT program, will be. It will be interesting, because there was the town of Eagle which eliminated its town tax because of the wind towers, so that would be unbelievable.”
Elliot is hoping for the same outcome in the town of Pomfret and will be addressing the board once Babcock and Brown officially apply to the town.
“We’re locked into a contract for quite a few years and we’re happy with it. Hopefully it will benefit the town,” she said. “I will be approaching the town board and to see if they will consider using the money to lower the whole towns tax base. I think the green energy act will be more welcome in the town if everyone gets their taxes dropped. I don’t want us to be the only benefit from this, I want the whole town to benefit from it.”
Gross was unable to get into monetary compensation that landowners would be receiving, but did say a royalty to landowners is paid during operation along with payments during the development period. Gross said there will be benefits for the wind towers that don’t just affect the landowners monetarily.
“There’s tax or PILOT payments, there’s some employment, obviously it’s typically most cost effective to procure supplies as close to a project site for both construction and operations and maintenance periods. You don’t want to transport things from too long distance. So that’s good and services and labor for construction could be a for a typical wind farm five to eight full-time positions. And of course the landowners are making something so it’s more income to the area,” Gross said. “Then there’s the qualitative benefits knowing that your part of a clean renewable energy project which has positive external benefits as well, but that’s more of a subjective point of few.”
The next step for this project will be for Babcock and Brown to approach the Pomfret Town Board asking for permission to construct one to two MET towers.
By Michael Rukavina
20 January 2008
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