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Avangrid pulls the plug on wind farm in Hopkinton

Wind developers say new local zoning laws convinced them to walk away from a proposed 100-megawatt wind farm in rural St. Lawrence County.

In a letter to Hopkinton’s town board, an attorney for Atlantic Wind – the parent company of Avangrid Renewables – said executives “will cease all development efforts” after nearly a decade working on the proposed North Ridge Wind Farm.

(Click here to read the letter.)

Attorney Robert Panasci said the decision comes after Hopkinton approved a restrictive new zoning ordinance this spring, which would have pushed wind turbines roughly a half-mile from local homes and the boundary of the Adirondack Park, in some cases. Avangrid had already signed leases with several local landowners by the time that law went into effect.

Technically, it’s up to state energy officials to decide where wind farms and other large energy developments can go. Avangrid might have sidestepped the new zoning restrictions by appealing to a state siting board, through what’s known as the Article 10 process. But that’s no longer an option: On Monday, Avangrid Renewables filed a formal request with state regulators to pull the North Ridge project from consideration.

(Click here to read the petition.)

Avangrid did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The North Ridge Wind Farm had been in development since 2010. The project was originally planned for two communities: Hopkinton and the nearby town of Parishville. But over time, local people became increasingly skeptical that the wind farm would deliver the economic benefits that Avangrid had promised. The company estimated payments of more than $34 million over 30 years. This winter, Avangrid dropped Parishville from the project after it struggled to reach a deal with local leaders.

Anti-wind activist Anne Britton lives near Hopkinton. Since 2010, she’s been running a Facebook group that’s heavily critical of the North Ridge Wind Farm. Britton said she was thrilled to hear that the project will not move forward.

“I think my whole neighborhood probably heard me scream, ‘wahoo,'” Britton said. “I knew that I would see [the turbines] from my front windows. I moved here, to a town of 500 people and got out of a big city, for a big reason – not to be industrialized. I just can’t let it happen near me.”

Avangrid has already closed up its field office in St. Lawrence County. It’s not clear what’s next for the leaseholders who agreed to let the company build turbines on their land. According to Panasci, Avangrid’s attorney, the company still has “many supporters” in the region.

“We encourage all to keep seeking positive economic development opportunities that would help fund your schools, improve town services and infrastructure, increase property values, and provide a better future for the next generation,” Panasci wrote.