This page has information about a sample proposed (2016) wind energy development in northern New York State.
Unfortunately we can’t do an analysis of every NYS proposed wind project. However, this one is similar to others being proposed — like Lighthouse Wind (Yates & Somerset) and Galloo Island 2 (Henderson & Hounsfield) — so a lot of what’s on this page is applicable to other NYS wind projects.
Make sure to look at the rest of this WiseEnergy.org website (see menus above), as there are several hundred studies and reports about the negative economic, environmental and technical consequences of industrial wind energy. Several videos worth watching are here.
To keep current with what’s going on with this project, please periodically check back here for updates. More recent significant additions or modifications will be indicated in green. If you have questions about any of this, or have other material that should be included, or find any errors here, or would like to be on our email list, please email John Droz.
Quickie overview: a Spanish developer (Iberdrola) is proposing an industrial wind energy development called Horse Creek for the incomparable NYS Thousand Island region. [Yes, Iberdrola is the company that tops the list of US “corporate welfare hogs.”]
Horse Creek has been marketed as a “205 MW project” which means that it may consist of 70± industrial turbines, up to 500± foot tall (the exact turbine height has yet to be specified). The developer is leasing 14,000± acres of land from private landowners. [Here is a map overview. This is an excellent video taken from the turbine height at the proposed site — which indicates how how far away people will be able to see these machines.]
Our position is that alternative energy sources should be encouraged — but none should be permitted on the public grid until a scientific assessment proves that they are a NET societal benefit. No such scientific assessment exists for wind energy! The evidence from studies done by independent experts concludes that wind energy is a net economics and environmental loser. See below (and read through this website — esp EnergyPresentation.Info) for more details.
The objectives of our elected representatives should be: 1) to encourage development that is a net-benefit to the community, while 2) protecting citizens, the environment, local economies, and military bases from industrialization. The bottom line is that the NYS Constitution (Article IX) mandates that local officials protect the health, safety and welfare of the community, so that must be the top priority. There is not a word in the state Constitution about an obligation of our representatives to promote the economic interests of some out-of-state investor.
NY PSC (Public Service Commission) and the NY Article 10 Review Board will be actively involved in the review process, but the Horse Creek developer has not yet made formal applications to those agencies. We are hopeful that state authorities would first and foremost protect the health, safety and welfare of NYS communities. However, so far (with other NY wind projects) that has not turned out to be the case.
Due to the inadequacy of state and federal regulations, NY communities are left on their own to deal with industrial wind energy. The proposed project would include the Jefferson County towns of Brownville, Clayton, Lyme and Orleans. The Town of Clayton had the foresight to pass a wind ordinance in 2007, which was revised in 2011. The Town of Orleans passed a wind law in 2011, and the Town of Lyme passed a wind ordinance in 2012. All of these Town wind ordinances currently need major updating to adequately protect the health, safety and welfare of their communities. (See more details at bottom of this page.)
As you can see below, a model wind law has been written and proposed for Clayton and Orleans. In both cases this is under review. Local citizens are hopeful that a Public Hearing will be held on both of these local laws, and that each Town will subsequently pass those protective measures.
Note 1: How huge can these turbines be?
Note 2: See this simulated picture of how the turbines might look (facing South).
Note 3: To see how actual turbines may look from the St. Lawrence River, see these three simulations.
Economic Realities —
The Horse Creek wind project will likely result in an annual net $10 million loss — as well as an annual net reduction in employment of some 200 jobs. Please read the following carefully to see how this all comes about…
Worldwide, wind promoters usually market their projects as a “found money opportunity.” However, the typical reality is that the developer makes tens of millions in profit, while the local community has a net economic loss.
In other words, these projects are usually all about making a killing (at the expense of taxpayers, ratepayers, local businesses, the military, and the environment), as the wind energy business is one of the most lucrative investments anywhere. Wind profiteers make exceptional returns due to advantages like generous federal subsidies, state mandates, and extremely preferential treatment once they are on the electrical grid.
The industry goes to great lengths to keep their profits a proprietary number, as they know their bargaining position would be seriously undermined if such information was made public. However, insiders have indicated that (on other wind projects) they expect to make an annual guaranteed net profit of up to 25%! If that holds true for Horse Creek, that works out to $50± million per year to the developer!
The only way the developer can make these huge profits on the backs of citizens, is to hope that:
a) they can cheaply buy off the community (e.g. with lightweight regulations, reduced property taxes [a PILOT agreement], unguaranteed claims of a few jobs, etc.),
b) the community won’t pay attention to the whole economics picture (see below),
c) the community won’t notice that there are zero net societal benefits for such a project, and
d) property leaseholders won’t give adequate consideration to the terms and conditions in their 40± page contracts.
What About Farmers and Hunters?
The developers claim that this project will be a boon for some local farmers. Making the decision about signing a lease to host industrial wind turbines often sounds like a no-brainer — as landowners may get paid $10,000+ per year per turbine for doing almost nothing, right?
Wrong. There are extraordinary implications to signing these leases (actually easements), which knowledgeable attorneys have called some of the most restrictive, one-sided contracts anywhere in the country.
The community will also lose income from sportsmen, as industrial wind development is incompatible with hunting.
What Are Some Other Pieces of the Economics Picture?
1) For starters, read what the NC Department of Commerce wrote about another Iberdrola project, Desert Wind:
“Nearly all of the upfront investment will be with firms located outside the state” and “The employment impacts for a project with this much initial investment is small.” [There is no indication anything will be different here.]
To be conservative, we will reduce the 80% loss figure to only 20%. The impact of this amount is that the Clayton area community will lose $3.4± million of local tourism revenue a year!
3) Read this study by four of the world’s leading bat experts (all PhDs) about the substantial economic costs of turbine related bat deaths — due to sharp reductions in agriculture yields.
These independent experts then calculated the cost of turbine bat deaths for each NY county. The low-range projected agricultural loss for the Clayton area communities due to industrial wind development is $1.8± million annually!
4) Read this collection of reports about why industrial wind development will likely reduce nearby residential property values. For example, in the nearby Town of Henderson, a 2016 Study concluded that they could lose $40± million in property values due to the proposed Galloo Island wind project. (This is why a Property Value Guarantee is so important.)
Extrapolating the 2016 Henderson study to the communities affected by the Horse Creek project means that something like $100 million in property values could easily be lost. Dividing that by a generous 20 year life of the project means that this is a $5± million annual loss.
We add these figures up, and then credit the Towns with a generous (but not guaranteed) $2.5 million per year of combined property tax and lease income. The result is that this wind project will likely result in an annual net loss of $7.7± million.
However there are several MORE local economic liabilities to still add in!
For example, the developer claims (but does not guarantee) that the Horse Creek project will result in 10 jobs. However, using only the very conservative 20% figure again, there will be 210± jobs lost in just the tourism sector. In other words:
—> an annual net employment loss of 200± jobs!
There is also the direct and indirect costs due to the adverse health effects caused by industrial turbines.
Plus there is the cost due to the health consequences caused by a proliferation of insects (due to many bats being killed).
Plus there is the cost to consumers and businesses due to the higher cost of wind energy electricity.
Plus there is the “shocking environmental cost” of wind energy.
Plus there is the substantial loss in property tax revenue to the affected towns (due to the significant loss in property value). To maintain services, ALL property owners would end up paying a higher tax rate.
The referenced studies are simply examples. Please see the Menus above for many more reports… It also may be relevant that citizens near another US wind project have sued the developer for “creating a nuisance that will cause unreasonable inconvenience, interference, annoyance, adverse health effects, and loss of use and value of each Plaintiff’s property.”
After taking all these into account, there will likely be a NET ECONOMIC LOSS of $10±M per year!
So, over the life of the project, there could be a regional NET ECONOMIC LOSS of $200±M!
The Military Impact —
The nearby Fort Drum army base is not only a major economic driver for the region, but it is also one of the more important military facilities in the country. If wind energy issues cause Fort Drum to be more susceptible to BRAC downsizing, that could amount to Billions of dollars of loss to the NY economy. Additionally, if expansion of Fort Drum’s mission (like this) is also negated by nearby industrial wind energy, that also could translate to be a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Note that no military cost is factored in the Economic overview, above.
To get a better grasp of just one of the possible military related the problem here, read some sample reports and articles about how turbines impact radar. Read this 2016 interview with a Fort Drum representative about the adverse impact that a wind project 40 miles away has already had. Note where the military person candidly states that there is no current solution to the radar interference problems caused by these large industrial turbines.
Some people have the misconception that the military will formally object if a proposed wind project might cause them serious harm. Unfortunately that is not the case, as the military has been told to stand-down regarding wind energy conflicts. The fact is that in thousands of military-related cases presented to the DoD Siting Clearinghouse, we are aware of only one situation where a wind energy project was denied.
For further evidence of what is going on, please read this fascinating exchange in this US House Armed Services Hearing (e.g. page 19), where it is made quite clear what our current political priorities are. The bottom line is that the Clearinghouse process does not offer our military any meaningful or guaranteed protections when it comes to industrial wind energy.
At this point, the only genuine protection that NY military base has, is for their local community to pass an effective protection-oriented wind ordinance.
Unfortunately there may be another major complication from this situation. Read about what is happening in the small town of Newport, NY. They have a nearby radar facility, as well as a wind project. A petition was put out by some very concerned citizens, because of some “startling cancer statistics.” Their concern is that this tiny town now has 6% of the US cases of a particular cancer. As the petition explains, local people believe that industrial turbines in the path of nearby radar redirects this energy into people’s homes — and quite possibly increasing their health risk.
Some Misc Documents of Interest —
Iberdrola’s PIP filing (6/21/16)
Note: Concerned citizens SHOULD immediately file objections to this project at the NY PSC website.
Iberdrola’s “Newsletter” (9/1/16)
Iberdrola’s Lawsuit against Clayton’s Wind Moratorium (5/26/16)
Clayton’s Response to Iberdrola’s Lawsuit (6/29/16)
Judge’s initial ruling on Iberdrola’s Lawsuit (7/13/16)
11/07/15 – Developer Revisiting Clayton Wind Project (Malone Telegram).
02/02/16 – Developer Re-evaluating Wind Project (Watertown Daily Times).
02/11/16 – Wind Project Will Likely Expand into Neighboring Towns (WDT).
02/17/16 – Wind Developer Renews Several Local Land Leases (WDT).
03/03/16 – Clayton Wind Project is a Tough Sell Even For Environmentalists (NPR).
03/06/16 – Iberdrola Planning to File for Article 10 (Watertown Daily Times).
03/11/16 – Clayton Proposes Banning Wind Projects (Watertown Daily Times).
03/16/16 – One Town Gets First Look at Wind Proposal… (WWNY).
03/17/16 – Orleans Planning Board Reviews Developer’s Proposal (Watertown Daily Times).
03/18/16 – Lesson for Clayton from Cape Vincent’s BP Standoff (Watertown Daily Times).
03/23/16 – Public Hearing on Clayton’s Proposed Wind Moratorium & Video (Town of Clayton).
04/06/16 – Clayton Slows Down to Study Wind Options (Ogdensburg Journal).
04/07/16 – Clayton Considers Wind Moratorium (Ogdensburg Journal).
04/16/16 – Orleans Approves Six Month Wind Moratorium (Watertown Daily Times).
04/27/16 – Clayton Planning Board Recommends 1 Year Wind Moratorium (Watertown Daily Times).
05/12/16 – Clayton Approves Wind Moratorium (Watertown Daily Times).
06/01/16 – Iberdrola Files Suit Against Clayton Moratorium (Watertown Daily Times).
06/01/16 – Op-Ed on the foolishness of wind energy PILOTs (Watertown Daily Times).
06/01/16 – Orleans Holds Second Hearing on Wind Moratorium (Jefferson Leaning Left).
06/23/16 – Jefferson County Adopting New PILOT Policy (Watertown Daily Times).
07/14/16 – Judge’s Initial Ruling on the Clayton Moratorium Lawsuit (Watertown Daily Times).
08/24/16 – Iberdrola submits revised Public Involvement Plan (Watertown Daily Times).
08/28/16 – Raise Up Your Voices (Editorial: Watertown Daily Times).
08/31/16 – County Disapproves Brownville’s Proposed Wind Law (Watertown Daily Times).
09/12/16 – Op-Ed Regarding NNY Wind (Watertown Daily Times).
09/13/16 – Clayton Proposes New Wind Law (Watertown Daily Times).
09/13/16 – American Bird Conservancy’s statement about the Horse Creek Project.
09/14/16 – Citizens Urge Major Revisions of Proposed Clayton Wind Law (Watertown Daily Times).
09/14/16 – Video of Clayton Public Hearing re Proposed Local Law 5 (Steve Weed Productions).
09/17/16 – Attorney Dennis Vacco’s Op-Ed re Local Law 5 (Watertown Daily Times).
09/20/16 – State Agency Holds Wind Energy Meeting at JCC (Watertown Daily Times).
10/15/16 – Clayton and Wind Developer Settle Moratorium Lawsuit (Watertown Daily Times).
11/08/16 – JCIDA Says They Will Not Conflict with County’s PILOT Position (Watertown Daily Times).
11/12/16 – Orleans Board Claims Wind Project is Outside of Overlay District (Watertown Daily Times).
Some Local Wind Law Information —
Ordinance Bullet Points (on outline of the basics that need to be included in a local protections-oriented wind law).
Writing An Effective Wind Ordinance (more details on the Bullet Points).
How do the wind laws of the affected TI communities compare to each other, and the Model?
Here is a comparison of the key technical points.
Here is a ratings comparison, that shows how protective each wind law is.
The interesting verdict is that the current Lyme wind law is the best. See below for details.
Some Town of Clayton info:
Town of Clayton Wind Law (2007)
Town of Clayton Wind Law 1 (2011)
Town of Clayton Wind Law 2 (2011)
Clayton 6 Month Wind Moratorium (4/20/16)
Proposed Clayton Wind Law: Local Law 3 (4/10/16)
Proposed Clayton Wind Law: Local Law 5 (8/25/16)
Contact info for Clayton Town Board.
Some Town of Orleans info:
Town of Orleans Wind Law (2011)
Orleans 6 Month Wind Moratorium (6/9/16)
Proposed Orleans Wind Law (2016)
Contact info for Orleans Town Board.
Some Town of Lyme info:
Town of Lyme Wind Law (2012)
Proposed Lyme Wind Law (2016)
Contact info for the Town of Lyme.
Some Village of Brownville info:
Contact info for the Village of Brownville.
[I was not able to locate a Brownville wind law, or info for the Town of Brownville.]
[Sometimes the good question is asked: why should the zoning and ordinance for a wind project be any different from a large commercial “Big Box” project (e.g. a Walmart)? The reason that special zoning and ordinances are needed is because there are MAJOR differences. See here to see a list showing some of the differences.]