The large meeting room at the LoGuidice Center was completely full for a wind turbine lease discussion.
Land owners and interested members of the surrounding area gathered to listen to two presentations by Daniel Reynolds, Regional Environmental Analyst with Southern Tier West who discussed the contractual process; Michael Saviola, Agricultural Resource Specialist with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets who discussed land restoration; and also to two land owners of the town of Eagle who recently experienced the wind energy construction phase first-hand.
Robert Bliss and Albert Marsh, land owners in the town of Eagle, both recently experienced the construction phase and are nearing in on the completion of their 60-plus towers town-wide wind energy farm project. Before taking many questions from the audience they each explained the pros and cons, with both of them agreeing on one negative aspect.
“The biggest heart ache that we had was the electrical poles. I’ll probably be working around 60 to 70 poles,” Bliss said. “In the contract it said poles and towers would be located in consideration with landowners, so I’m thinking there won’t be any poles and we ended up with a bunch.”
Marsh said the contract stated electric lines would run below ground, above ground as needed. But the electric poles was one of the only down sides spoken about by the two land owners. For a rural town like Eagle, with registered voters totalling a little over 300, Bliss said the move to accept the wind farm was met with very little opposition.
“They (Noble) make a PILOT payment to the town of Eagle and split with our two school districts,” Bliss explained of the financial benefit. “Noble paid our town around $800,000 for our project, and that’s early. Eagle will be getting well over $1 million once the other project in Weathersfield is done. They are paying the village of Arcade also per year for their line use, $369,000 per year and this is a 20-year PILOT program. Our roads are better than they ever were, and that was all Noble.”
Bliss explained that Noble was very cooperative in the reconstruction aspect, fixing damaged town roads and land used to mobilize equipment.
“They put a camera through all the sewage pipes so that if they damage them when they bring in these parts for the windmill they will go back and film the pipes when they are done to make sure they are OK,” Marsh said.
The town of Eagle does not pay any town tax thanks to the wind farm project, and individual land owners receive $3,750 per windmill. Bliss has four windmills on his property and is guaranteed $18,000 per year.
The idea of a wind energy farm in the town of Pomfret is still a raw idea in comparison to the town of Eagle’s project and Bliss said he wished their town would have been able to have a conference such as the one he was speaking at.
“I’m happy that we have them, but If your town is split, I don’t know. In our town there were probably two people against it,” he said. “These are all new companies, they might have one other previous project, so they don’t really know what they’re doing or what they will run into.”
The reasoning behind the presentations prior to the discussion with Marsh and Bliss were to make landowners aware of the good, the bad, and the guidelines that keep the wind energy companies in check.
“Ag. and Markets is a statutory party. We are involved in terms of reviewing and certifying the projects. We’re an involved agency during the SEQR review,” said Saviola who explained to the audience how the Department of Agriculture and Markets would be involved. “We have pre-construction meetings with them (contractors) and show them slides, a lot of times you get contractors that do this work that aren’t really familiar with it, but again that’s part of the job for the Ag. and Markets inspector to work with the local contractors to direct them.”
Saviola explained the process in which contractors need to scrape and preserve top soil on the land owners property used during the construction phase. And to ensure that aspect, and all aspects were done to the liking of the land owner, Daniel Reynolds explained the contractual end and considerations land owners need to keep in mind.
Reynolds pointed out a few areas where land owners may want to pay close attention to before signing their contract, areas like: lease agreements and payment options, remembering to make sure the energy company is responsible for any increases to the assessment of the property, conflicting leases of the property, and to be named co-insurer under the companies policy.
The meeting was sponsored by Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County, Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier West – Regional Planning and Development Board.
By Michael Rukavina
26 March 2008
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