There is no doubt that the Heritage Wind Farm is a big project. It will absolutely be visible around the Barre community. For some, the turbines may represent an unwelcome change to the current farm landscape, but to others, the turbines will look like the next generation of American agriculture – a better, cleaner, safer way to power our homes and businesses.
While it is natural for folks to disagree on the aesthetics of a project like this, it is unfortunate that there are many other factors influencing peoples’ opinions of the project, and many of them are rooted in inaccurate information. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but my goal is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to form an informed opinion, based on accurate information about the project. With this in mind, I want to correct the record on a few critical elements of the project. I hope you will take the time to read this piece in full.
One of the most critical pieces of information the community must understand when considering this project is what benefit it will bring to the community at large. Wind energy facilities in New York provide two substantial streams of revenue to their local communities ¬¬– one through a Host Community Agreement (HCA) and one through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement. The HCA is negotiated with the town alone, and in the case of Heritage Wind, the Town of Barre will receive and control the HCA funds. The PILOT is negotiated with the town, county, and school district, and for Heritage, we expect that the county and schools will receive the majority of PILOT funds and will have full control over how to spend them.
In addition to these two agreements, Heritage Wind will pay taxes directly to the Barre Fire District through a separate special fire district tax. Use of that money will be up to the Barre Fire District to determine.
While we do not yet know exactly how much money these payments will comprise, we know enough today to be able to guarantee that the amount of money coming to the Town of Barre from Heritage Wind each year will be nearly the same as the total property tax revenues the town collected in 2018, about $1.1-1.2 million per year, totaling about $50 million over the next 20-26 years.
What information is needed to calculate the exact value of the revenue Barre will receive from Heritage Wind? First, the final numbers will depend on the final project size, measured in megawatts (MW). We know that Heritage Wind will be between 150-185 MW, but the final project size will be determined by the State of New York’s Article 10 permit process and the availability of turbine technology at the time of permitting. To ensure that the taxing jurisdictions get a fair deal, no matter the final size of the project, our economic agreements are being negotiated in terms of dollars per MW. The bigger the project, the more money the town, county, and school district will receive.
The exact value of the revenue that local jurisdictions will receive from Heritage Wind will also be affected by the terms of the HCA and PILOT agreements themselves, which are still being negotiated. Terms under negotiation include the length of the agreements, the final dollar per MW value, and the rate of inflation escalation to be applied each year.
Where would this money go? That question will be entirely up to Orleans County, the Albion School District, and the Town of Barre to decide, and because the money is coming in through a PILOT and an HCA, these jurisdictions have full control over where they put that money. The current Barre Town Board has expressed interest in using the money to reduce taxes, make necessary infrastructure investments for a healthy and vibrant town, and ensure that future generations receive some benefit from these funds.
Of course the tax, PILOT, and HCA revenues Heritage Wind will bring to the area are not the only economic benefits it will provide. The project will help sustain the area’s local family farms by offering substantial lease payments to participants, preserving Barre’s local farm community. Barre’s local farms are one of the largest single-sector tax resources for the town and an economic engine for the area, providing employment and goods for export, while purchasing equipment, materials, and services from local suppliers. Furthermore, Barre’s farm families are the lifeblood of the local community, participating in local government, contributing to local causes, and helping to keep local schools vibrant. By helping Barre’s farmers thrive, Heritage Wind will help Barre thrive.
Finally, a note on property rights. If built, Heritage Wind will be located entirely on private land. Facilities will only be placed on those parcels for which a voluntary legal agreement has been signed by the landowner. There has never been, nor will there ever be, any placement of Heritage Wind facilities on private lands without landowner approvals. The project has no legal right to use eminent domain and has no intention to try and get it.
I ask you to consider these facts when determining your position on Heritage Wind, and I will continue to be honest with you. I will not try to argue that wind turbines are not tall. They are. I will not try to argue that they won’t be visible. They will. But I believe that these aesthetic impacts are well worth the benefits the project will bring.
There are nearly 60,000 wind turbines safely operating across the U.S. today. Across the country, cattle, sheep, and deer graze and sleep under these turbines, tens of thousands of American homes are located near these turbines, and over 1,000 rural American communities are healthy and thriving because of the economic vitality these turbines have delivered. The choice is up to you, residents of Barre. Will you join them?
Development Manager for Heritage Wind