Iberdrola Renewables has confirmed that the meteorological test towers have been disabled and the company will no longer pursue developing the Stone Church industrial wind farm in Hammond, a project the company has been courting for the past several years.
Clayton’s proposed Horse Creek Wind Farm will not be affected. The project could have up to 48 turbines, near Route 12, south of the village of Clayton. The company informed the town last fall that it intends to seek project review through the state siting board. Clayton Planning Board Chairman Roland (Bud) Barll has not been informed of any changes in plans to move forward with Horse Creek.
Iberdrola’s leases with Hammond property owners for the use of their land were deemed null and void as of January 1. At least nine leaseholders received registered letters confirming the leases have been canceled.
Iberdrola Business Development Manager Jenny Briot has stated that her company is canceling 100 projects in the United States, according to leaseholder James Pitcher, who had been in conversations with her regarding the future of wind in Hammond and elsewhere.
Several small test towers in Hammond will be donated to schools or colleges, while the taller towers, measuring up to 288 feet high, will be taken down by the company, possibly with the help of large cranes from out of the area. Some of the Hammond towers were erected in 2005.
The industrial wind issue had been alive in Hammond since the early 2000’s and resulted in a split in the community that turned friends into enemies and enemies into friends. Committees were formed to study the health, safety and economic impacts of the project and to report those findings to the town board.
Wind laws were amended more than once and ultimately rewritten. The issue of whether to turn the small tourist and agricultural town of Hammond into an industrial area affected local election results and sparked controversy over ethics and possible conflicts of interest of public officials.
Lawsuits were lodged in the past few years by both pro and anti-wind citizens. Leaseholders saw the wind farm as a means to bolster income in the difficult and financially challenging business of agriculture. They also hoped the wind project would boost the local economy as a whole.
As for the wind company’s reasoning on pulling the plug in Hammond, Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola, explained that the company must make difficult decisions about where to allocate capital. They have been scaling back projects in the U.S., but he stated in an email that the proposed wind project in the town of Clayton will still be pursued.
“The decision to right-size of our pipeline of wind projects under development does not change our position towards the U.S. renewable energy market, to which we remain committed. We own and operate over 5200 MW of wind farms across the country, and we continue to develop Horse Creek in Clayton,” he said.
Locally, speculation over the financial viability of the wind company had increased recently following news reports that Iberdrola sold many of its wind farms in European countries.
Mr. Copleman responded, “As to the sales of projects in other countries, global economic conditions always play a role in corporate decision-making. The company retains a diversified asset base across 40 countries and maintains stable cash flows with earnings from different businesses. We have already indicated that future U.S. renewables development will be selective, but we continue to pursue good opportunities and explore a range of strategy options. We just brought online three new wind farms last month, in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California.
The Concerned Residents of Hammond (CROH) was created four years ago by residents concerned over health and safety issues and “transparency” in local government. CROH President Mary Hamilton reacted to the news that Iberdrola has ended its efforts in Hammond.
She said, in part, “There are no winners in this situation. We watched as a foreign wind developer stealthily entered our community with promises that resulted in the creation of a division among residents that may not heal in this decade or the next. They can now walk away unscathed as it’s just a job to them, void of emotion. Unfortunately, the scenario is allowed to be repeated across United States, and the people in small, rural communities are pawns in the game of corporate greed and political lobbying.”
Hammond has been looking to further its economic development through the creation of a comprehensive plan that outlines the joint goals and guidelines of the town and village. A hearing on accepting the plan will be scheduled within the next few weeks.
Representatives of the business community formed an economic development group to promote business and tourism opportunities. The group is currently undergoing restructuring to become a town and/or village board committee.
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