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Nothing but hot air: Wind farm would offer little in economic benefits for region

People from the town of Henderson expressed concerns about a proposed wind farm on Galloo Island, and they should trust their instincts.

Hudson Energy, Albany, wants to construct 31 turbines on the island. During a Nov. 4 informational meeting, held as part of the state-led Article 10 review, residents said that the 575-foot-tall turbines would still be quite visible even from six miles away. In addition, they said the town of Henderson wouldn’t derive any tax benefits from the project because Galloo Island is located in the town of Hounsfield.

But even Hounsfield wouldn’t benefit all that much from the wind farm. Representatives of Hudson said they would need a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency to get the project up and running. The proposal would require approval from the county, the town of Hounsfield and Sackets Harbor Central School District.

Two decades is a long time for a development like a wind farm to receive such generous tax breaks.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that very few long-term jobs would be created by implementing this project.

Aside from the temporary construction jobs, virtually all positions to maintain the turbines – the few that would actually materialize – would be held by people from outside the north country.

And once the PILOT runs its course, what’s next? If a wind farm in Madison County is any indicator, nothing good would come of the post-PILOT phase.

EDP Renewables North America, Houston, received a 15-year PILOT for its seven-turbine project in Madison County due to expire next year. But company representatives have told county officials that, going forward, they cannot pay more than they are paying now under the PILOT, which is $60,000. That is some demand.

The property’s assessed value is $15 million. If EDP paid taxes based on this assessment, Madison Central School District would receive $364,500 in taxes, the town of Madison $65,250 and the county $147,000.

This was the first wind farm constructed in the state, so the turbines are worth considerably less than they were when put up in 2000. County officials said that EDP could simply walk away from the project and have the issue resolved in court.

This is the primary problem with a wind farm project: huge government subsidies for paltry economic benefits. And in the end, developers could close down shop and let county officials worry about decommissioning the outdated turbines.

Where are the advantages to approving such a plan?

Jefferson County legislators sound like they are leery of the wind farm proposed for Galloo Island. Good. Unless Hudson can show some major benefits for the region, there’s no point in approving the project for anything less than full taxes forever.