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Hammond wind farm put on hold

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The Spanish-owned company that wants to build 75 wind turbines in the St. Lawrence County town of Hammond has put the project on hold. Iberdrola says it's waiting for Hammond to finalize its zoning laws for wind power. David Sommerstein has more.

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In a letter to the town board, Iberdrola said it’s pulling its Hammond project out of the queue for consideration by New York’s power grid operator.  It’s been waiting in that line for two and a half years.  Company spokesman Paul Copleman said there was an air of uncertainty regarding Hammond’s rules for siting wind towers.

That air of uncertainty has hindered our ability to further the development process.

Hammond is in the middle of its second moratorium on wind farm construction.  It’s set to expire at the end of July. 

Like many communities confronting industrial-scale wind power in the North Country, Hammond’s been bitterly divided over a pile of wind farm-related issues - who’s signed land contracts with the company and who hasn’t, how far turbines should be from houses, property lines, and the St. Lawrence River, and potential conflicts of interest.  Two councilmen have recused themselves because their families have signed deals with Iberdrola.

Town supervisor Ron Bertram says he understands why Iberdrola’s reluctant to move forward.  But he says residents’ lifestyles and property values need to be protected.

Bertram says the town’s wind advisory committee submitted its final report Monday night.  It recommends maximum noise levels and a way for compensating homeowners if their property values drop, among other measures.

Bertram says the town board has already begun sorting through those recommendations.  He hopes to have a wind power siting law in place by the time the moratorium expires.

In the past, Iberdrola has hinted some of those measures could be dealbreakers.  But speaking yesterday, Iberdrola’s Paul Copleman said the company’s willing to wait.

I don’t think we want people to think this step means we’re any less interested in developing a project.  We continue to work within the process that’s been afforded to us and are appreciative of the opportunity to continue working with people who are considering what it would mean to have a wind farm in the area.

Copleman says the Hammond project will have to go to the back of the line behind other wind farms with the state power grid.  But he says he doesn’t believe that will delay development.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein.

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