Middlesex Solar farm incentives approved

John Christensen

At an Aug. 2 special meeting of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (Yates County’s Economic/Industrial Development Agency) approved multiple resolutions related to two projects — one that will allow homeowners to buy power generated by a solar farm in Middlesex.

SOLAR FARM: The SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review), PILOT (Payment in lieu of Taxes) Deviation, and Approving Resolution for a large community solar farm in Middlesex were all passed unanimously. SUN8 PDC LLC, a subsidiary of Distributed Sun LLC, is building two adjoining projects, one of 2 megawatts and the other 1.7 mw. It is one of several constructed in the region in an agreement with Cornell University to provide electricity to approximately 3,000 homes, remotely metered, at a savings of 10 percent over standard NYSEG rates. The Middlesex project will supply about 400 homes.

According to Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC), the project investment is projected to be $6.5 million, and provides 70 construction jobs during the 6-month schedule. The company has applied for 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with FLEDC, to pay $4,860 per mw, equaling $17,982 the first year, and increasing 2 percent per year. Griffin says the current taxes on the $55,000 land value will continue to be paid by property owner Jeanette L. Daum. SUN8 will pay taxes based on the change of use and the value of improvements. All taxing entities are aware of the PILOT deviation. Griffin says that even without the 30-year PILOT, the solar project could pay nothing in taxes for up to 15 years by state exemption. The Town of Middlesex prefers to approve the 30-year tax incentives rather than receive no taxes for 15 years.

The proposed project will see the installation of 18.7 acres of solar panels, arranged in an array facing south, on a total land area of 37.48 acres for both parcels. Approximately 18 acres of trees will be cleared for the solar array installation in order to provide direct sunlight to the panel surfaces. The stumps will be removed to allow for the installation of the panel racking system which will be supported by a driven or screw pile system. The trees that are cleared will be chipped on-site, and the wood chips will be re-used on-site as a mulch cover. No grading is anticipated, and the existing stormwater drainage pattern will not be altered significantly. The site will be surrounded by an 8 ft. tall chain link fence for security.

The special meeting was scheduled after the public hearing and before the Middlesex Town Planning Board meeting due to a change in the boundaries of the project to avoid wetlands. While not protected wetlands, the required approval from the Army Corps of Engineers if the site was not moved, could have delayed the project a further six months.

In other business:

BRANCHPORT PROPERTIES: The SEQR Resolution and Approving Resolution for a standard PILOT agreement with Branchport Properties LLC, a subsidiary of Finger Lakes Premier Properties, passed unanimously. Griffin explained the project for a new building in the Horizon Business Park will benefit from $130,000 in tax incentives, create seven permanent full time jobs, and provide a 50 to 1 benefit ratio for the local economy.