SINCLAIRVILLE – Representatives from Environmental Design & Research and EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc. were on hand Thursday at the Sinclairville Fire Hall to field the community’s questions regarding the Cassadaga Wind Project.
Thursday marked the third open house held by the companies to encourage stakeholder participation and to educate the public.
More than 50 local residents were in attendance with many questions and concerns raised throughout the open house.
Questions regarding neighbor reimbursement, setbacks, liability, economic boosts and more were posed throughout the two-hour meeting, with the majority of residents appearing to be in support of the project despite concerns.
The driving factor behind the support is likely the possible economic benefits of the project.
Land owners hosting turbines would see the largest benefit through lease agreements to use their land. But the benefits aren’t limited to host sites.
“The biggest impact I can speak to is in the payment in lieu of taxes payment,” said EverPower Senior Director of Development Kevin Sheen. “For this project there will be a PILOT and a host community agreement. In New York state the going rate is about $8,000 per megawatt, per year. That money is then split between the three taxing jurisdictions, being schools, county and town. That split is based on a prorated formula that the county has. That amount will escalate yearly based on what the PILOT agreement is.”
Using those figures, the Cassadaga Wind Project would pay $1,008,000 per year, prior to escalation, to be divided up according to the formula.
The contract will also pay to have local highway departments keep the 10-15 miles of access roads plowed and cleared throughout the winter. In the case of EverPower’s project in the town of Howard, which has approximately half the road mileage, the contract is for $200,000 per year.
The trickle-down effect will also benefit the area throughout the construction process, which will take nine months to a year depending on weather.
Concrete suppliers will gain a large boost; local contractors and unions will gain jobs and businesses will see a boost in traffic.
“There are also special district benefits,” Sheen said. “PILOT agreements do not cover special use districts, such as fire departments. But we are required to pay our fair share of taxes to special-use districts. What I can tell you is in the town of Howard we have a 55 megawatt project and we pay about $40,000 a year in taxes to that district for our services. I’m sure there will be some sort of arrangement here as well, I just don’t have the numbers at this point.”
Regarding other questions, neighbors will likely qualify for payments based on proximity to the turbines.
As one resident said, “I moved out here (in the country) to get away from everything you guys represent. If you are putting a 500-foot tower in view of my back porch I should be compensated.”
Homeowners hosting turbines are free of liability and will be covered under EverPower’s insurance, according to Manager Bill Spencer.
The Cassadaga Wind Farm is currently in the pre-application phase, which includes preparation of a Public Involvement Plan, implementation of the PIP and preparation of a Preliminary Scoping Statement.
“I would say we are at least a good two years away as far as timeline goes,” Spencer said. “What’s driving a lot of the timeline is when we can get through the permit process. It could take longer if (the state) doesn’t like what we submit. There is an appeal process, so it’s hard to predict, especially when dealing with New York state.
“Once you get interveners involved in the process, that could stretch it out longer,” he added. “It all depends on people who have questions about the project, people who may not want the project or have issues with it, and we have to address all of those concerns before the state will approve the project.”
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