Over a dozen solar projects come before the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency in the last six months. IDA CEO Mark Geise says the companies are either feeling the waters, some are more serious, and some are at the level to ask for incentives, “There definitely has been a movement toward solar and it’s not just here, it’s across the state. There are certain tax incentives that developers can receive from the state so they’re developing these projects accordingly.”
Geise said many of these are smaller solar projects, “Five megawatts or less except for the ConnectGen project being proposed in South Ripley which is a 270 megawatt solar facility. And we do this for all projects. It’s really up to the municipalities. If they want us to offer incentives, we will, if they don’t, we won’t.”
Sheridan, Chautauqua, town of Dunkirk, and Hanover are other locations where solar companies are looking to do projects. Geise says there is a process these companies have to follow, “There might be zoning issues or site plan review, so it goes through their planning boards and zoning boards. There’s the environment review process as well, so they definitely need local approval.”
Geise says the solar projects have to be near a utility connection and have typically been placed where there isn’t fertile soil. He says the municipality, school, and county benefit from these projects through tax payments, but there are benefits to the landowners as well, “Who enter into long-term leases on their land, so for a lot of these farmers it’s a revenue source and it gives them the ability to obviously maintain their farms through diversification. And then, of course, it helps to satisfy the Governor’s green energy goals.”
Some of the tax incentives that solar companies have sought and been given include payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOTS, mortgage tax rebates, and sales tax rebates.