Orleans EDA looks to revise PILOT policy to include solar

Photo by Tom Rivers: Russell Brilhart, an employee with Sole Contracting in Delaware, carries a solar panel on Feb. 4 that was installed by the Albion sewer plant on Densmore Street. The Village of Albion completed a project that added 3,888 solar panels by the sewer plant.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2020 at 4:53 pm

ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency is looking to amend its Uniform Tax Exemption Policy to accommodate solar projects, especially larger-scale projects that could cover several hundred acres.

The policy amendments would give developers the opportunity to negotiate a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) revenue agreement with multiple municipalities through the EDA.

Without an updated policy, the companies would need to work out revenue agreements individually with towns, the county and school districts. Those entities also cannot approve a PILOT for more than 15 years, said Jim Whipple, EDA chief executive officer. The EDA can approve a deal for 25 years or longer.

Companies with large-scale projects prefer a longer-term agreement so there is certainty with those revenue costs with municipalities. The longer-term arrangements also help companies secure financing for the projects, and also provide predictability in revenue for municipalities, the EDA said.

The EDA had a public hearing on the amended policy this morning at 11 a.m. The EDA board of directors could vote to adopt the change during its monthly board meeting on Friday at 8 a.m.

Solar projects typically have been small-scale but large projects are being eyed throughout Western New York, including one in Clarendon. Other towns are being approached for solar projects.

Solar companies last year built projects with several thousand solar panels in Albion by the sewer plant on Densmore Road and in Ridgeway on Route 31 and Allis Road. The Albion project didn’t have a PILOT, while Ridgeway negotiated the deal in its town.

If the EDA approves the updated policy, towns still have the option to negotiate their own PILOTs, Whipple said.

The EDA is trying to offer an option for PILOTs beyond 15 years and for towns and other taxing entities that don’t want to take the lead in crafting a PILOT. But Whipple said the EDA will only pursue a PILOT with a solar company if the towns want the EDA to be involved.

Tony Cammarata, Kendall town supervisor, and Brian Napoli, Ridgeway town supervisor, both attended today’s public hearing. So did Derek Vallese, Albion Central School business administrator, and Dan Strong, Town of Albion and Gaines code enforcement officer.

“We won’t come in and do a wind or solar project without the complete support of the municipalities,” Whipple said about a PILOT agreement.

In the case of wind energy, the Town of Barre has asked the EDA to help with a PILOT. Apex Clean Energy is proposed a project in Barre. Apex also wants to have turbines in Yates and Somerset. Yates hasn’t asked the EDA to help with a PILOT agreement. The town governments at Yates and Somerset have both opposed the project.

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