GCEDC weighing tax breaks for Byron solar project

BATAVIA — The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) is considering an application for $628,166 total in sales tax and property tax exemptions for a proposed solar project on 1,616 acres of land in Byron.

Excelsior Energy Center, LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. is proposing a 280-megawatt project.

“We have spent the better part of three years working on this project, working with the developer, along with the town of Byron, navigating and negotiating both the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement and the host benefit agreement,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde during Thursday’s board meeting.

Excelsior has negotiated a 20-year tax and community host agreements, including payments of $6,500 per megawatt, with a 2 percent annual escalator, to Genesee County, the town of Byron, and the Byron-Bergen School District.

Excelsior is proposing to invest $345.55 million in a utility scale solar project on multiple properties in the town of Byron.

“The total ... benefits on this project are about $32.8 million over the 20-year life of the project, but they will be paying, in total, in year one, between the host (agreement) and the PILOT, a total of over $1.8 million with a 2 percent annual escalator for the 20 years,” Hyde said.

“They will be making $44 million in tax-agreement payments to the affected taxing jurisdictions to support the community — the school, the county, the town.”

The GCEDC will schedule a public hearing in the next couple of months.

The board Thursday approved final incentives for Forefront Power LLC (Elba Solar) for a $9.7 million community solar project on Norton Road in the town of Elba.

The project will generate 5 megawatts of power and generate approximately $518,803 in new revenue to Genesee County, the town of Elba, and the Elba Central School District over the proposed 15-year agreement.

It also approved incentives for Solar Liberty for community solar projects on Tesnow Road in the town of Pembroke. Solar Liberty is making a capital investment of $7.7 million.

The projects will generate 4 megawatts and 5 megawatts of power and will generate approximately $856,024 in new revenue to the county, the town of Pembroke, and the Akron Central School District over the proposed 15-year agreement.

Also Thursday, the board accepted an application from DePaul Special Needs Apartments LP. DePaul is proposing to invest $3.75 million to expand by 20 living units an existing special needs housing campus in the city of Batavia.

The project would increase annual PILOT payments by approximately $6,000 per year for the remainder of the facility’s existing PILOT schedule.

The board approved incentives for Plug Power Inc., who plans to develop a green hydrogen production facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) site in the town of Alabama.

The GCEDC said Plug Power has agreed to pay $2.3 million a year for 20 years, which would be the equivalent of a 100 percent tax payment on a $65 million assessment. If the project was assessed at the cost of construction — $232.7 million — the GCEDC said it would save Plug Power an estimated $118.2 million.

The anticipated assessment on the Plug Power project, once it is built, is much more likely to be in the range of $60 to $90 million, Hyde said.

The agency said it used a more conservative approach given the lack of comparable projects.

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