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Niagara's second solar array finances finalized

Fri, Jul 21st 2023 07:00 am

By Timothy Chipp

Contributing Writer

Town of Niagara officials now know what to expect, financially, once AC Power 15 LLC completes its solar power array in the Republic Services Allied Waste Niagara Falls Landfill at 5600 Niagara Falls Blvd.

Board members on Tuesday approved a negotiated, 15-year pay scale, agreed to in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, revealing the first year of operation will pay the town roughly $7,300 to use the land.

Payments increase every year, jumping to about $9,700 in the final year of the agreement.

Niagara Town Attorney Michael Risman said the project allows the town to collect money on a property that, assuming a normal amount of use, would fill up and be non-operational in about four years.

“They’re a company that’s looking to use landfills in an interesting way,” he said.

AC Power 15 LLC received its conditional approval to move forward with the project, which will take up six parcels of the landfill, in April. Risman said the facility could begin operation in August, which would trigger the first payment.

The agreement is the second finalized in as many months for the town, following a much more lucrative – but for a more expansive project – one completed in June with Niagara Depot Solar.

Following the decision last month, the town is collecting quarterly payments of rent from the company, since it owns the dump facility the company is leasing to house its arrays.

Those payments are more than $13,000 four times per year, increasing by 2% through 2047.

However, short-term prospects for other solar arrays like these have been shut down in the town, as they’ve implemented a six-month moratorium, meaning no applications can be submitted until the end of the year.

A new board, with a new supervisor, will tackle the future of solar – and wind – power generators in the town following November’s election once they assume office on Jan. 1.

Quarry Road Waste Transfer Facility

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board set a date for a long-awaited public hearing regarding the future of a waste transfer facility on Quarry Road.

But there have been some significant modifications from what was originally proposed to the town this past fall.

Covanta Environmental Solutions first approached the town to expand its facility, increasing its load to about 150 tons of solid waste per day. But those plans have been scrapped, according to the town’s building inspector, Charles Haseley.

Instead, town officials will consider rezoning the facility from its current “light industrial” classification to “heavy industrial.” Town officials will also consider granting a special use permit, as well as renew the existing siting and operating permit, allowing the New Jersey-based company to run its facility.

At the town’s July work session earlier this month, Risman and Haseley said the facility needed to be brought into compliance with the town’s current solid waste code, to which it had been grandfathered into, including the special use permit.

It’s a step, they said, aimed at bringing more oversight from the town on a yearly basis, unlike the current setup.

It’s an arrangement that seems to have perked the ears of the project’s loudest detractor on the board, Councilman Richard Sirianni.

In the fall when the project was first considered, Sirianni balked at the zoning change, since he said a change could mean a number of future uses that would be disadvantageous for the town.

“I get a little concerned going heavy industrial,” Sirianni said. “But, if them coming back to us yearly is enough of a hammer (I will be able to agree).”

Covanta’s public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.

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