HAMMOND – Spanish energy company Iberdrola Renewables is saying “Adios!” to its proposed Stone Church wind project.
The company has withdrawn from its leases with landowners and will remove test towers it has in the town.
“We are removing the meteorological towers and no longer developing the project,” said company spokesman Paul N. Copleman. “It’s not to say that we don’t believe it would one day be a good site for a wind farm, but we won’t be pursuing it.”
He could not offer a time frame for when the towers would be removed, and did not know how many lease holders were affected.
Mr. Copleman cited uncertainty over wind power regulations and the wind energy market as reasons for the decision.
“We have a pretty big pipeline of projects under development spread throughout the country, and we are constantly evaluating these projects based on a wide variety of criteria,” he said. “When the time came to make a decision, it was weighed against the opportunities we have to take advantage of the newly extended federal tax credit window.”
He said other Northern New York projects in various stages of development, including the Horse Creek wind farm in Clayton and a potential project in Parishville, are still moving ahead.
The Hammond project was the subject of bitter debate among town residents in recent years that included a series of lawsuits filed by wind energy opponents and supporters.
Mr. Copleman said the difficulties surrounding the Hammond project had nothing to do with the company’s decision.
“Certainly there were people who raised objections, and we worked hard to address their concerns, but I wouldn’t say that what we faced or what we saw in terms of people raising questions about the project was necessarily unique,” he said. “We don’t go into any community expecting that everyone will love the idea of wind power.”
Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram was not surprised by the news.
“They took their project off the (state) ISO (Independent System Operator) queue a year ago and closed their office here,” he said. “Other than talking to them at a couple of meetings, they never indicated formally that they intended to do anything here.”
Former Town Council member James E. Langtry said although the project appears dead, it caused a rift in the community that will never fully heal.
While on the Town Council, he had been pressured into recusing himself from discussing or voting on wind development issues because a relative held a lease with Iberdrola.
“I know that I am very bitter,” he said. “Some of the friends I had for 40 years, some of the things they have said to me, I will never forgive them.”
The spokeswoman for Concerned Residents of Hammond, a group opposed to Iberdrola’s plans, stopped short of calling the company’s decision a victory.
“There are no winners in this situation,” said Mary D. Hamilton. “We have a divided town, people who don’t talk to one another, and it will probably take a couple of generations before everything is smoothed over. It’s sad to think that’s the case.”
Mr. Bertram said he, too, believes that the divisions among residents may take a generation or longer to heal, but he still hopes the community can come together to plan for the future.
“We’re in the middle of preparing the first comprehensive plan we’ve ever had, and that will be a good start for people to maybe come back together and work on another alternative that may be good for the town,” he said.
The town’s wind regulatory law was the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit last year by a group of landowners who called it overly restrictive. Michele W. McQueer, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who had lease with Iberdrola, said the company’s decision does not mean wind energy is a dead issue for the town.
“All I have to say is there are other wind companies, and we are talking to them,” she said. “Nobody can stop us from signing new leases with other companies.”
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