Just one year after the start up of the windmills in Dixville Notch and Millsfield, the company that owns the Granite Reliable Windpark in those two unincorporated places is already at odds with the County Government over how much it needs to pay in property taxes.
At a meeting of the Coos County Commissioners this week, it was learned that Brookfield Renewable Energy Group has paid about half of what the County Commissioners were expecting for the windpark’s 2013 payment in lieu of taxes (abbreviated to “PILOT”) property taxes to the County. A disagreement has broken out between the Coos County Commissioners and Brookfield Power-which owns the Granite Reliable Windpark–over what was expected for that payment. The County was expecting a payment of $495,000, while the windpark only submitted $249,175.
The windpark is capable of producing and transmitting up to 99 megawatts of power per year for the newly installed windmills which travel along the mountaintops of Dixville Notch and Millsfield. In a letter to the Commissioners, along with the tax payment of $249,175, Brookfield Renewable Energy explained that ISO-New England (which regulates the power grid in New England) requested that the windpark “curtail” its output, which is at 49.835 megawatts. Brookfield stated that, according to its agreement with the County, the payment for 2013 is based on $5,000 per megawatt produced, resulting in the $249,175 payment. The Commissioners, however, were expecting $495,000, a price they feel was settled at for the 99 megawatts that the company is capable of generating. That PILOT money received for the windpark is divided between the unincorporated places of Dixville and Millsfield. Without those expected funds from Brookfield Renewable Energy, other property owners in Dixville and Millsfield could see an increase in their property tax bills for 2013. County Administrator Jennifer Fish said she is not sure at this point how the Commissioners will address the lack of revenue for the two unincorporated places. The Commissioners, said Fish, will wait until after Feb. 1 before discussing how to handle the lowered payment from Brookfield. “The company has until Feb. 1 to make their tax payment,” said Fish.
The company did pay $420,000 in January 2012 for the 2012 property taxes. (It had first paid a deposit of $75,000, which was followed by the balance of $420,000.) She said if the balance of $245,825 is not paid by Feb. 1, the Commissioners will likely be conferring with the County’s Attorney. “They are saying that, according to the way they interpret the agreement, they only have to pay $5,000 per each megawatt produced, and that they were not permitted to generate energy at full capacity. That’s not the way I or the commissioners interpret the agreement,” said Fish.
According to Brookfield Power, the payment in lieu of taxes for megawatts produced per year is a “common” payment in lieu of taxes agreement, unless a different agreement is reached. The agreement with Granite Reliable Windpark was signed by the Commissioners in March 2008, and read: “One Time Payment: Granite Reliable Power agrees to make a one time payment of $75,000 to the County within 15 days of the effective date of this agreement. First Payment: The first payment GRP makes under paragraph (a) of this section shall be reduced by $75,000.” A paragraph referring to the specifics of the agreement states, “If the Windpark is built as proposed, it will be a 99 megawatt Windpark and the annual PILOT will be $495,000 ($5,000 per megawatt per year).” The agreement does not appear to specify that the PILOT is based on power produced. Joanne Walsh, a Communications Specialist and spokesman for Brookfield Renewable Energy Group responded to an email from the Chronicle and explained, “Brookfield will continue its attempts to resolve this issue with the County. We believe that the payment due under the PILOT is directly tied to the amount of electricity we are permitted to produce. Unfortunately, the Granite project has been often curtailed at the direction of the New England ISO. For an explanation about curtailment orders, please contact ISO-New England.”
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