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Martinsburg wind project could happen in 2012, but no promises


MARTINSBURG — With a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan for the proposed Roaring Brook Wind Farm expected to be adopted in early December, construction of the nearly five-year-old project may commence as soon as next year.

However, after previously delaying the 39-turbine project owing to market conditions, the developer is making no promises.

“We are still working to close out some development items, like the PILOT,” Paul C. Copelman, a communications manager with Iberdrola Renewables, said via email. “We are also continually evaluating important factors like the market and equipment and construction costs and expect to make a decision about how to proceed within the next few months. If all goes well, we could make this happen next year.”

Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, is proposing a 78-megawatt wind farm on 5,280 acres just south of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm. Iberdrola is part owner of that 195-turbine wind farm, which also extends into the towns of Harrisburg and Lowville.

The Roaring Brook project would include 30 turbines on land owned by Zeager Partnership Ltd. of Middletown, Pa., while the other nine would be on adjacent parcels.

When the project received site plan approval from the Martinsburg town Planning Board in December 2009, Iberdrola officials said construction on the project could start as soon as late 2010. However, the company last summer, citing a weak electricity market, said construction of the Roaring Brook project would be delayed indefinitely.

A proposed PILOT plan with Atlantic Wind worth $17.2 million to $23.9 million over 20 years was approved, in principle, last year by the three affected taxing jurisdictions: the town of Martinsburg, Lewis County and the Lowville Academy and Central School District.

However, the developer only recently requested that the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency, which is to administer the PILOT, move forward with its approval process.

The agency on Tuesday held a public hearing on the proposal, at which nobody made formal comments, said Richard H. Porter, IDA executive director.

Then, on Thursday, the agency board approved deviating from the IDA’s standard PILOT policy for the Roaring Brook plan and likely will vote on the final agreement at its Dec. 1 meeting, he said.

Under a typical PILOT agreement, the company in the first year pays 50 percent of the amount it would owe in taxes, then an additional 5 percent each subsequent year, according to IDA attorney Thomas A. Campany.

The Roaring Brook agreement offers a base payment of $8,000 per megawatt with an annual cost-of-living increase of 2.5 percent to 5 percent. If Iberdrola or a related developer gives approval for higher per-megawatt payments on projects in Jefferson or Herkimer counties in Roaring Brook’s first three years of payments, the per-megawatt amount would rise to the higher level.

The terms are similar to an agreement approved with Atlantic Wind’s 37-turbine Hardscrabble Wind Farm in Herkimer County.

The three involved taxing jurisdictions recently reached an agreement to distribute annual PILOT payments, if and when they are forthcoming, based on a fixed ratio using this year’s tax rates, Mr. Campany said. Without such an agreement in place, the distribution would change annually based upon each year’s full-value tax rates.

Under the proposed agreement, the minimum 20-year payout of $17.2 million would be distributed as follows: $6.9 million (40.2 percent) to the school district, $5.7 million (33.1 percent) to the county and $4.6 million (26.7 percent) to the town.

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