The sponsor of 124 megawatt wind turbine installation in eastern Broome County has applied for a 30-year, $21 million property tax reduction in return for two permanent jobs.
In the first year, Bluestone Wind, will pay $231,000 in property taxes — to be split between the Windsor and Deposit school districts, the towns of Windsor and Sanford, respective fire districts and Broome County — on the estimated $213 million investment, according to documents submitted to Broome County. By the end of the 30-year agreement, the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes will rise to $411,000.
Additionally, the company will pay an additional $936,000 annual to the host municipalities through a previously negotiated Host Community Agreement, bringing total annual payments to eastern Broome taxing authorities in the first years of the agreement to $1.1 million.
Based on project design, 27 towers are to be spread across the Town of Sanford, many visible from Route 17, and another four in the Town of Windsor. Some of the largest turbines could measure 670 feet in height from base to top of— the blade tip. Bluestone wind turbines will produce enough juice to supply about 100,000 residences depending on demand.
Aside from the towers, the project is designed to include access roads to the turbines, along with electric collection lines, a substation, among other facilities to be included in construction.
In addition to the property tax abatement, the project will escape an estimated $8.8 million in costs through a sales tax exemption and $1.9 million in forgiven mortgage taxes. All told, with fees, the Calpine, the sponsor, has requested that $33.8 million in taxes and other charges be exempted.
Of the $213 million invested, the company estimated federal and state assistance will fund about 40 percent — $128 million —of the total cost.
The Broome County Industrial Development Agency directors are scheduled to discuss the application at noon Wednesday.
During the application process many of these numbers have been kept under wraps by developers, who claimed they were proprietary. The application for the tax abatement is the first detailed public disclosure of the financials driving the deal.
"The project has and will create a long-term revenue stream for underlying landowners in the firm of lease and easement payments, while having minimal impact on pre-existing agricultural and forestry uses of involved land," said the application. "While the host communities will benefit from new, stable and increasing HCA (Home Community Agreement), PILOT and fire district tax revenue from the project, it will generate very little demand on municipal, school district and fire resources."
Early disclosure documents indicated some landowners could collect up to $30,000 annually for leasing land to turbine operators. Price of easements could go as low as $2,500.
During the two-year construction timetable, Calpine expects to employ about 70 tradespeople, with an average wage of $74,000. Once in operation, the wind installation will employ two people at an average salary of $86,000, though, it adds, the turbine supplier "will have an additional need for full-time employees based at the site."
Major wind initiative
Application for the tax deal culminates a more than four-year-long process to win approval for the controversial project. Town of Sanford residents mounted a vigorous fight to derail the installation, saying the 60-story high towers are incompatible with the rural, forested environment. Wildlife experts said turning turbine blades represent a hazard to migrating and resident bald and golden eagles.
New York utility regulators turned aside objections, approving the project in April even as the two local representatives on the Public Service Commission Sighting Board criticized the initiative.
"I don't believe the community was listened to," John Mauro, a Town of Sanford representative, said as the board rejected an effort to halt the project.
Calpine, along with a host of other recently approved wind projects across upstate New York ,will assist in achieving its ambitious goal of 70% of the state's electric generation from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% by 2040.
The ultimate objective: an 85% reduction in carbon emissions from electric generation within the next 20 years.
By Bluestone's estimates, the Sanford and Windsor installations are expected to off-set 73,000 short tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually from conventional power plants and on annual basis.
Jeff Platsky covers transportation and the economy for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at JPLATSKY@Gannett.com and followed on Twitter: @JeffPlatsky