Potential solar project eyeing IDA assistance

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello paid a visit to the CCIDA’s Board of Directors during its meeting at Eason Hall on Tuesday.

WESTFIELD — The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency’s board took its meeting Tuesday on the road to Eason Hall in Westfield. Members learned about a small solar farm that’s being contemplated in the town of Portland.

Jeremy McCool, commercial development manager for Buffalo Solar Solutions, told the board that they have a client in E2I Adventures that wants to offset costs of its buildings through solar energy. McCool said E2I Adventures owns apartments in Western New York. By installing a solar farm and connecting it to the local grid, they’d be able to allocate bill credits to its apartment buildings.

The small solar farm, a 200-kilowatt remote net metered project, is being proposed on property between Route 5 and Interstate 90 in Portland that’s owned by a couple. McCool said it’s the only area in the town that allows for solar. McCool said it all started when the couple called Buffalo Solar Solutions about solar for their home. While they didn’t qualify for credits, there was another opportunity that presented itself.

“I realized they may not be a great fit for solar right now, but they have a lot of good space,” he said. “I talked to them and they were interested in leasing some old farmland they have in the back of their property. We went through the code of the town and county and it perfectly qualifies for the project. We already had E2I Adventures onboard looking for this type of plan, so it matched up so perfectly.”

McCool said they plan to connect the power that’s generated from the solar farm to a National Grid pole across the street from the proposed site. The pole contains a 13.5 kilovolt line that runs along Swede and Martin Roads and Route 20. McCool noted that power generated from the solar farm will benefit the area as it’ll improve power quality.

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Jeremy McCool, pictured back right, speaks to the IDA Board of Director’s regarding a potential solar farm in the town of Portland.

“Rather than have indirect energy from a generator much farther down the line, it will help regulate the power going into homes and businesses in that corridor,” he said.

In most of New York state, there’s a property tax exemption on solar projects. Municipalities and school districts can opt out of the exemption, and McCool said Chautauqua County is one that has. With that, he noted the couple’s assessed property value would increase.

“The potential property tax from this project would eat half the revenue,” he said.

The project is looking to secure a payment in lieu of tax agreement and a sales tax abatement from the IDA.

“We expect this to bring some economic benefit,” he said. “We will need to hire four more crew members, and we’ll give first glance at people from Chautauqua County. We also determined we will purchase electrical supplies from local suppliers instead of going through our supplier in Rochester.”

In other matters, IDA CEO Mark Geise said around 15 resumes were received for an open position previously held by Lawrence Taylor. Geise said the plan is to narrow the group down to two or three. The goal is for a decision in three to four weeks.

“We’ve had good response and very good people applied for that position,” he said.

Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello visited the board to thank them for their service. He also discussed how critical the IDA board is to the economic development strategy.

“The purpose of this is for us to support projects that might otherwise not happen in Chautauqua County,” he said. “It’s this organization, this board that provides the opportunity to level the playing field against other areas we’re competing with. Without the IDA, the incentives, we’re not able to compete because we’re in New York state.”

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