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Arkwright energy project blows toward construction

ARKWRIGHT – With several wind energy projects in the works for Chautauqua County, Arkwright town officials and representatives from EDP Renewables North America LLC are proud to lead the way.

As announced at a town hall press conference Wednesday, construction is anticipated to begin in 2017, with the wind farm operational by the end of that calendar year.

“Currently, we are working with the (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Army Corps of Engineers for our final permits for wetland and stream crossing,” said Jeffrey Nemeth, EDP Renewables associate director of development and manager of the project. “We expect to have those permits in early January, and we are looking at tree clearing in February, and the turbines and the foundations, the main infrastructural will start at the end of May, early June, and you’ll see the first turbines being delivered in July.”

Arkwright Town Supervisor Frederic Norton can count this as a career highlight. He’s been a driving force behind the project for many years, and is glad to finally see it crest the horizon.

“I never thought the time would come when I would be here … diligence pays. EDP has been a marvelous partner in developing this project and I must say that the people have grown more positive over this project with each passing year; they have been treated so fairly by everybody. It means a lot to us,” said Norton.

Norton reviewed how the town would receive about $350,000 a year in revenue from the project, which will be much appreciated.

“When you consider that our real property tax low right now totals about $400,000, that’s a big help. We will be able to upgrade our roads, our town hall, and also have a positive impact on the tax roll, and so we’re looking forward to the construction and the financing of the project.”

Norton thanked the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency; EDP; and local, regional, and state representative for helping to make the project happen.

County Executive Vince Horrigan commented that “… We’re excited to see this come to Chautauqua County. All told, the project will bring in (over) $3 million annually to the various jurisdictions (and) growing the tax base is what we have to do.”

Kevin Sanvidge, CCIDA chief executive officer, noted the anticipated economic benefits of the project.

“The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) revenues to local taxing jurisdictions along with the approximately $509,000 annual lease payments to participating landowners will have a significant positive economic impact on our local communities,” he said.

Those jurisdictions include Chautauqua County, the town of Pomfret, the town of Arkwright, Pine Valley Central School, Forestville Central School and Fredonia Central School.

According to the CCIDA, “Additional expected economic benefits include reduced wholesale electricity price, and new employment opportunities in Chautauqua County. The company anticipates the creation of six permanent jobs in addition to 250 part-time positions during the wind farm’s construction.”

Officials noted that county tourism may increase, as well, once the wind farm is complete. People come from far and wide to see operating wind farms, and they are great field trip destinations for students learning about alternate energy sources or “green” engineering.

The history of this wind project is long (does that make it “long-winded?”), as it began over a decade ago in another form.

“The wind-powered electric generating facility is proposed by Arkwright Summit Wind Farm LLC, a company owned by EDP Renewables North America LLC (EDPR). The large-scale wind project has been in the works for over 10 years, initially sponsored by Horizon Wind Energy under the name ‘New Grange Wind Farm,’” stated the CCIDA in a media release. “In 2007, global company EDP entered the U.S. market with the acquisition of Horizon Wind Energy, LLC from Goldman Sachs and the rest is history. In 2011, Horizon Wind Energy was rebranded as EDP Renewables North America.”

The project, in its current and final form, involves building 36 wind turbines that will generate 78.4 megawatts – which, the CCIDA reported, is enough to power 31,500 households. The Arkwright Summit Wind Farm will span 6,500 acres of leased private land in the towns of Arkwright and Pomfret.

“In addition to the turbines, the wind farm will include one permanent meteorological tower, an operation and maintenance building, underground electrical lines and communication cables, an overhead generator lead line, and a system of gravel access roads, parking, landscaping and related improvements,” the CCIDA media release continued.

Nemeth stated Wednesday that instead of building a new facility for operations and maintenance, EDP was able to purchase an existing structure on Route 60 which will decrease the project’s environmental impacts.

One concern brought up at the recent Ball Hill Wind Farm project (Hanover, Villenova) public hearing was whether there was a buyer for that power. That is not a concern for EDP’s Arkwright Summit Wind Farm project, though, Nemeth assured the OBSERVER.

“We have a NYSERTA contract, as well as an agreement with Bloomberg,” he said. “So, we already have buyers in place (for the power),” he said.

Other speakers at the media conference Wednesday included New York state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Allison Hunt for the office of U.S. Rep Tom Reed, R-Corning.