Black Oak Commits to $99K in Tax Payments

Cornell will purchase all of the wind farm's energy for at least 10 years...

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By Andrew Casler via Ithaca Journal, 2/25/15

Seven, 475 foot-tall, 1.7-megawatt turbines on Black Oak Road in Enfield would generate $98,770 in annual tax revenue during the next 15 years.

That's according to Black Oak Wind Farm's Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, which the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency unanimously approved last week.

"This adds a big shot in the arm," Enfield Town Supervisor Ann Rider said.

Under the PILOT, Enfield would get 22 percent, $21,729, of the wind farm's tax payments. The town's total 2015 tax levy is $1,011,722.

"Not only does the town get a lump of money, this business isn't going to be a very big user of services," Rider said.

Three other municipalities would receive tax revenue from the wind farm. The Ithaca City School district gets 56 percent, $55,311, of Black Oak's tax payment, Odessa-Montour Central School gets 9 percent and Tompkins County gets 12 percent.

"I'm quite proud of the PILOT, and I'm pretty excited about what it does for the town, school districts and county," Black Oak Wind Vice President Marguerite Wells said.

A longstanding project goal is adding a local revenue source in Tompkins County community, Wells added.

"The PILOT is the most obvious vehicle for that... it's a way to keep local dollars circulating all the more," she said.

The wind farm's environmental impact statement was approved in November, but Rider said that the project doesn't have a building permit yet. A road use agreement and a community host agreement should be finished within the next six months, Rider added.

The environmental impact statement found that the turbines will have negative impacts on the Town of Hector's viewshed, cause added noise and have minimal impact on endangered species, Rider said.

Wells said that she expects construction to start this fall and finish before summer 2016. The $40 million wind farm will employ one part-time worker when it's complete, she added.

"The project is moving ahead, as we've expected it to do, which always takes longer than I think it will, but it keeps on chugging anyway" Wells said. Wells said she first thought the project would be finished in 2008.

The 11-year-old project shrunk from 15-20 megawatts to 12.6 megawatts in 2013, and with the General Electric turbine contract, it's down to 11.9 megawatts.

The wind farm would generate enough electricity to power 5,000 homes, according to Black Oak's website.

In December, Cornell University announced that it would purchase all of the wind farm's energy for at least 10 years.

The purchase will provide about 20 percent of Cornell's annual electricity use, and it will reduce the university's greenhouse gas emissions by about 5 percent, Cornell Sustainability Management Specialist Sarah Zemanick said.

"The benefits of the project far, far out-weigh any negatives," Rider said.

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.