Fuel cells continue to make power inroads in the Town of Brookhaven.

Last week the town’s Industrial Development Agency finalized a package of tax breaks for two fuel-cell power plants to be built in Setauket and Holtsville. Fuel cells make power by converting natural gas into hydrogen in an electrochemical process that avoids combustion. Heat and water are its byproducts.

The new fuel cells will be owned by subsidiaries of Northville Industries, the Melville-based petroleum company which houses a oil-tank farm in Holtsville, where one of the cells will be located on a 2,000-square-foot lot. The other will take up 3,000 square-feet of a 54-acre Northville terminal on Belle Meade Road in Setauket.

The fuel cell plants, to be run under the names FourGen H and FourGen S, will produce 920 kilowatts and 1.38 megawatts, respectively, to be sold to the Long Island Power Authority grid under a community-generation contract that would lower electric bills of hundreds of subscribing home and business customers.

Earlier this year, Brookhaven unveiled a 7.4-megawatt Fuel Cell Park at the Brookhaven Landfill in Yaphank, enough electricity, it said, to power up to 7,500 homes. The plan, supervisor Ed Romaine said in January, is to transition the landfill to an energy park when it stops accepting waste after 2024.

The Yaphank project was developed by Fuel Cell Energy and the natural gas for the facility provided by National Grid. The also town recently approved a resolution for a solar farm at the landfill that would generate $180,000 in annual revenue for the town.

For the newest fuel cells, the Northville subsidiaries -- NIC Holdings  and FourGen S and H -- said their facilities will be staffed by existing employees of its petroleum facilities, with eight additional people employed during construction at each facility.

“As Northville’s traditional petroleum fuels business declines as New York decarbonizes, the revenues from this project will support the terminal’s fixed costs and the continued employment of the 12 individuals who staff it,” wrote Steve Ripp, president of FourGen, wrote in requesting tax breaks from the IDA. He didn't respond to requests seeking comment. 

The $5.44 million Holtsville project cost is expected to be helped by up to $345,000 in sales tax breaks to develop the project, according to the IDA resolution. FourGen is scheduled to make graduated payments in lieu of taxes to the town of between $29,053 and $43,171 annually over its 25-year contract agreement. 

The Setauket facility will cost more than $7 million to build and equip, before an expected sales-tax exemption, and its payments in lieu of taxes over the 25 year-period will start at $43,579 annually and conclude at $64,756 annually. At present, property taxes for the 3,000-square-foot parcel are around $600 a year, according to IDA documents.

The Setauket project will receive up to $517,500 in sales- and use-tax exemptions for equipment, building materials, services or “other personal use property,” all from state and county tax that “does not directly impact the town or the school district” according to documents filed with the IDA’s resolution.

Fuel cells are considerably cleaner than traditional power plants because they don’t burn fuel, but their use of natural gas has earned them critics among some environmentalists.

“The IDA application refers to this as ‘clean energy,’ but these are usually natural gas power plants which are not renewable,” wrote resident Kerim Odekon, in documents filed with the IDA.

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