Like a freshening breeze that becomes a steady blow, the move to turn northeastern Jefferson County into one giant wind generation facility has roared perforce back to life.
Back in 2014, when Iberdrola officially removed its Horse Creek wind project from the Independent Systems Operator list of pending wind projects, it appeared to signal the death knell for wind generation along the St. Lawrence River corridor. Other projects studied for Hammond, Cape Vincent and Galloo Island had similarly quietly expired, or so it seemed at the time, and residents and vacation-home owners breathed a sigh of relief.
There were a lot of voices at the time that warned, in effect, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, but those voices were largely ignored. For example, when a proposal was made to have the region declared a scenic area of state significance, it was howled down by people with wild fears about state control of local initiatives – even though none of them could show that happening in the other parts of the state that had acquired a SASS designation.
So now, with Galloo Island and Horse Creek projects trying to fast-track to approval, the opportunity to let a SASS designation assist in controlling wind projects is so much dust in the wind.
Iberdrola, the company involved in the Clayton/Brownville/Orleans/Lyme project called Horse Creek, has a track record here; it developed the Maple Ridge project in Lewis County that is now about a dozen years old.
The major difference, however, is that Lewis County residents embraced that project. It occupies vast open spaces of farmland in some of the most sparely inhabited towns in the north country. And predictably, there was little outcry over its effect on the aesthetics of the area.
At Horse Creek and on Galloo, wind projects are a very different animal.
And now, a decade after Maple Ridge was built, the game has changed. New technology in wind towers has brought super towers with giant blades, forcing the structures up to 200 feet higher than the windmills of Lewis County.
That means that the visual impacts of the new towers are 50 percent greater than when the projects were first proposed.
Why have they returned? Blame Big Oil and state energy policy.
The production tax credit sweetheart subsidy that powered almost all of wind power’s growth had died and many thought it was buried. But Big Oil wanted the ban on export of U.S.-produced oil lifted, and the return of the subsidy was a major bargaining chip. That subsidy is now back, but it has a sunset provision that makes it imperative that wind developers get their sticks up in the air as soon as possible.
Coincident to this, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has promised an energy policy that will eliminate coal-fired power plants and require that 50 percent of the state’s generation be from renewable sources by 2050. This increases the pressure on the state to permit and see built all the renewable energy facilities that come down the pike.
The wind lobby is using this to great advantage, putting pressure on the governor’s office to accelerate approvals of wind projects. This will force the second floor to push its state agencies to move projects through the pipeline faster and faster, which would damage the ability of the Public Service Commission to give adequate review of projects under the state’s Article X process.
Big Wind is locked and loaded, and in every instance is trying to neutralize local input into siting decisions. Apex Clean Energy, owner of the Galloo Island rights, is trying to steam-roll a project in the towns of Somerset and Yates on the southern Ontario shore that has met immense opposition. Apex, one of the only companies to not sign on to the state’s disclosure statement that names public officials with economic ties to wind projects, has been trying to mute local opposition by convincing people that because of Article X, local voices have no role.
While this is absolutely untrue, it’s part of Big Wind’s effort to perpetuate the Big Lie.
This past week, the town of Clayton offered a new local law that would throw out its former wind development controls in favor of an outright ban on commercial wind projects. While this is a strong stand, it is also a wrong stand.
Many Clayton residents have received an email from an opponent of commercial wind along the seaway that says in part:
“If the town passes an effective prohibition, then the developer will sue the town for being arbitrary and capricious for zoning out something that the state says is legal and desirable. There is 95 percent certainty that the court will side with the developer and throw out the prohibition provision.
“Then where will Clayton be? The answer is that they will have no effective protections (like now) and then be in really deep trouble.”
Many people who have studied this agree. They suggest that the town pass multilayered ordinances that will be unassailable under review.
One notable wind opponent, John Droz, has written guidelines, which have attached to the electronic version of this column. It would behoove Clayton officials to consider revising their laws to provide real opposition to Horse Creek.
The Thousand Islands/Eastern Ontario Basin is simply no place for giant wind towers. But powerful forces are conspiring to bring their projects here despite local opposition. We let our guard down three years ago, but it’s time to regroup and defend.
Read more about the Clayton wind situation at http://wdt.me/wind-options.
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