JAMESTOWN – The Ball Hill Wind Farm received final approval from Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency board members, but it wasn’t unanimous.
During a Friday meeting in Jamestown, the board approved an environmental quality review statement and a final resolution to authorize a payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreement for the wind project. Six members gave their approval, while Dennis Rak, vice chairman, abstained and George Borrello, board member and county legislator, voted no.
The project in the towns of Villenova and Hanover continues to move forward with hopes to have permits in hand by the end of the month. Mark Lyons, senior manager of project development for Renewable Energy Systems, acknowledged no specific timeline for construction as a few steps still need to be addressed, including an offtake agreement.
Speaking in opposition to the project and resolutions, Borrello, R-Irving, said he supports small wind projects that power business and minimize strain on the electrical grid, but he said he can’t support industrial wind projects led by companies that are speculators who make profits solely on the taxpayers. Borrello, who represents Hanover residents, said he received several calls from those within and outside his district with concerns.
“I know this is an important project for many people in the county. I’m certainly not happy that I have to stand in opposition to people I respect, but the bottom line is if I’m going to represent my constituency and do what is fiscally responsible, I can’t support this,” Borrello said. “When it comes to industrial wind projects, the only green part about these projects is the money made.”
Although he abstained, Rak said the county’s supported energy development for quite some time. Rak, owner of Double A Vineyards in Fredonia, has a small wind turbine on his property that helps power his business.
“Oil and natural gas didn’t happen on their own,” he said. “There’s incentives that allowed those things to happen too. This is no different. I think we need to do projects like this. I understand (George’s) concerns, but I think this is something we should certainly support.”
The wind project will see the placement of 23 turbines in Villenova and six turbines in Hanover. The project, which initiated in 2008, set out with plans to place 40 turbines in the rural areas.
Lyons said the project hasn’t changed since he met with board members in September. Plans 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.
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. Borrello said Hanover will receive about $186,000 a year from the project, which comes out to be $11 per person a year. However, Borrello said if New York gets what it wants, and renewable energy is forced, electrical rates could go up.
“We’re going to have to pay more, pay more through taxes and rates through electricity,” he said. “We’re supposed to be supporting development of economically sound commerce and industry. This is not economical and sound.”
As for an offtake agreement, Lyons said they’re pursuing all avenues for interested parties. Lyons said New York is in an anomalous situation as the Public Service Commission adopted policy to get to 50 percent clean energy by 2030. A structured energy offtake lacks, however.
“We’re looking for commercial industrial customers (that are) interested. I’m confident we’ll find a solution because the state has strong policy encouraging these projects, which require purchase agreements to proceed,” he said.
The life span of the project is 25 years plus. A decommission plan is in place where money will be held in an escrow for the towns in event the company did walk away from the project.
Plans from 2008 found that 25 residences were within 1,200 feet of a wind turbine. Under the new layout, Lyons said there are no residences within that distance.
The Ball Hill Wind Farm is one of three projects in the making in Chautauqua County. The Arkwright Wind Farm is proposing 36 turbines in Arkwright and Pomfret with a maximum generating capacity of 78.4 megawatts. The proposed Cassadaga Wind project has plans of up to 58 turbines in Arkwright, Charlotte and Cherry Creek.
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