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IDA moves forward in wind farm project

A wind project in northern Chautauqua County could garner final approval before the end of the year, pending completion of an environmental review.

On Tuesday, the project took a step forward as the county Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors authorized a deviation from uniform policy for the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project during a meeting in Jamestown. Since language within the county’s tax exempt policy didn’t include wind farms, board members needed to authorize a deviation so a payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreement could be given for the project.

The wind farm will bring over $300,000 a year to the county, towns of Hanover and Villenova and schools within the towns, according to IDA officials. Rich Dixon, chief financial officer, told board members all taxing jurisdictions are pleased with the negotiated PILOT payments. A final resolution authorizing the project will likely be considered in December once a final environmental impact statement is complete.

The Ball Hill Wind Energy Project initiated in 2008 with plans to place more than 40 turbines in the rural areas. That number is down to 29 under the latest proposal with 23 turbines in Villenova and six in Hanover.

Despite supporting the project from a procedural standpoint Tuesday, George Borrello, county legislator and board member, said he wouldn’t be supporting the project after hearing from concerned constituents within his district. Borrello, R-Irving, said he won’t be supporting any tax exemption issuance for the project going forward.

“My main concern is these wind towers will be higher than the tallest skyscraper in Western New York. They will be very intrusive and obstructive and there’s a tremendous amount of evidence that they have negative impacts on people’s health and quality of life,” Borrello told The Post-Journal after the meeting. “My biggest concern is the fact these windmills would not be built without tax subsidies.”

Such projects require tax credits from federal and state governments to be built, and Borrello said they’re not economically feasible. Borrello said small wind projects that power farms, for example, make sense as they reduce strain on the electrical grid. In addition, Borrello said they don’t make money for Wall Street speculators.

IDA officials said they were looking to bring a final resolution to the board at the November meeting to move the project ahead. However, more time is needed to prepare the final environmental impact statement.

“It’s a large project with a large environmental review,” said Matt Mazgaj, counsel for the IDA board. “It’s just time to dive in and properly consider the environmental impacts.”

Last month, Mark Lyons, senior manager of project development for Renewable Energy Systems, presented board members with the latest changes to the project. Updates to the plan include utilizing the Vestas V126-3.45-megawatt turbine to allow for greater wind capture and more energy production. Earlier proposals looked at the Vestas V110-2.2 megawatt and a 2.3 megawatt General Electric turbine.

Revisions within the latest plans have decreased access roads to turbines from 14.9 miles to 13.4 miles and buried electrical collection lines from 21.3 miles to 15.4 miles. Lyons stated no residences are within 1,200 feet of any turbine. A power purchase agreement remains to be seen as Lyons said they’ll be looking into the commercial and industrial market where direct energy users can enter into contracts to buy clean energy.