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Chautauqua County backs solar-energy farm projects

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Solar farms

Solar energy projects are becoming commonplace in Western New York.

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There's a whole lot of sunlight shining in Chautauqua County these days, and the county wants to support it.

The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency has given final or preliminary backing to tax-break requests for five solar-power projects valued at more than $23 million, which will generate more than 20 megawatts of electricity in all.

Each of the projects is located in a different town, with three of the projects being developed by one company, Omni Navitis Solar Energy Development.

Omni received approval for a 5-megawatt project on 30 acres, located at 6036 Hartfield Stockton Road in Dewittville. The $5.045 million project would begin in the fall, with completion after six months. The CCIDA agreed to award $2.4 million in tax breaks to the projects, most through a 25-year reduction in property taxes.

The company also received preliminary authorization for a 5-megawatt solar farm on 32.67 acres, at 7820 Felton Road in Portland, and for a 3.33-megawatt project on 23 acres at 10256 Old Road in French Creek. Those two projects – valued at $5.045 million and $3.377 million – must still come back for final approvals.

Additionally, the development arm of Spain's RIC Energy plans to construct a 4.699-megawatt solar farm at 10026 Farel Road in Pomfret. The $5.6 million project was already approved by the town, with construction to begin in April 2023 and completion that fall.

And New York City-based Delaware River Solar, through NY Hanover II LLC, intends to build a 2.2-megawatt system on Angell Road, near Hanover Road, in the Town of Hanover. The town approved a variance for the $3.9 million project, which will begin in the first or second quarter of 2023, and be operating by the fall or winter.

The CCIDA will consider property-tax breaks for RIC and Delaware River Solar.

Loans

The agency also greenlighted a pair of AL Tech loans to support the redevelopment of the former Welch Administration Building in downtown Westfield and an investment by a Jamestown manufacturer.

Savarino Cos. and RANT LLC are renovating the former grape cooperative's headquarters into affordable and market-rate apartments, plus commercial space. The $11.5 million project received tax breaks in December, but the developers needed an additional $475,000 to finance the property purchase. The 20-year loan was approved at 4% interest.

Welchs-in-Westfield

Developers are seeking tax breaks to renovate the historic building that once housed the corporate headquarters for Welch Foods Inc. 

"We recognize the importance that this building has to the village, the town and the region, and we're looking forward to driving this project forward," said Savarino project development associate Joseph Quinn.

Meanwhile, International Ordinance – which previously obtained a Cares Act loan to buy an endo generator that would make its furnace run more efficiently – now needs to pay $233,000 to repair the furnace itself, which broke down as the new equipment was being shipped.

So the CCIDA agreed to provide a $90,000 loan at 4% for seven years, contingent on the firm also getting a $90,000 loan from the Jamestown Local Development Corp. and $50,000 in grants from the city and town.

Finally, the agency approved Economic Development Administration coronavirus relief loans of $125,000 for Artone Furnishings, $100,000 each for Heritage Ministries and Labyrinth Press Co. Inc., and $41,000 for Merritt Estate Winery. All are seven-year loans at 2.44%.

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More than 200 megawatts of new solar-power generation are being proposed for four projects in Western New York, as energy producers race to ramp up alternate energy production amid the state's push to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

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