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Update: Horse Creek Wind Project

Eight years since TI Life first reported on Wolfe Island’s wind turbines, additional industrial wind development in the Thousand Islands remains a very real and active possibility. Remarkably, it appears that many residents and visitors are unaware of this transformative and ongoing regional question.

Starting in 2009, when 86 wind turbines (each 420 feet tall) were erected on Wolfe Island, various attempts have been made to construct industrial turbine arrays in at least four towns along the American shoreline.EAgles Rick Wiley caption

Through the passage of specific wind district laws and zoning requirements, local residents and town governments in Cape Vincent and Hammond successfully dissuaded wind developers from building additional turbines, some of which would have been constructed only 1200 feet from the St. Lawrence River.

In every instance but one, developers along the St. Lawrence River have failed, withdrawing their applications and focusing expansion efforts outside of the St. Lawrence River viewshed.

However, in early 2016, a revised version of the contentious Horse Creek Wind Project in Clayton, mothballed for almost five years, was resubmitted by Atlantic Wind LLC, an American subsidiary of Spanish multinational Iberdrola.

The revised version of Horse Creek is being considered under New York State’s relatively new Article 10 industrial power generation siting process. Unlike previous project approval mechanisms, Article 10 takes away local project approval authority, known as Home Rule, and replaces the siting approval process with an administrative process controlled and decided upon by the New York State Public Service Commission in Albany.Iberdrola

Not surprisingly, news of a revised Horse Creek Project, combined with the new Article 10 approval process, has reignited passionate debate about the future of the Thousand Islands.

The Horse Creek Wind Project was first proposed for the Town of Clayton in 2006. Then covering an area of about 9,000 acres, the project consisted of 48, nearly 500-foot turbines. However, the project was delayed over concerns about the project’s impact on federally-endangered bat species, as well as by a vocal contingent of citizens who strongly opposed industrial-scale wind development. Not long after, Iberdrola pulled the project, blaming an unclear development timeline and a reevaluation of capital priorities. Local opposition and town government officials declared victory, crediting strong local resistance and the expiration of important federal subsidies for wind developers as critical reasons for their success.

However, after federal subsidies were extended in a late session of Congress in 2015, Iberdrola, via subsidiary Avangrid Renewables, quickly restarted the project in the Spring of 2016.

The revised project has expanded and now proposes 60-72 industrial wind turbines, new access roads and transmission lines spread over 14,000 acres in the riverfront Towns of Clayton and Orleans, as well as the Towns of Brownville and Lyme on Lake Ontario.

Currently, turbines up to 500 + feet are proposed. However, due to the flexibility of the Article 10 siting process, important project specifics including turbine height and number can be changed by the developer during later stages of project approval. Project opponents fear that the final Horse Creek application will call for 600 or even 700-foot tall turbines.

Wind graph size
Gamesa 2.6 MW Turbines (626 feet) would fulfill Iberdrola's plans to produce up to 250 MW from 72 turbines.
The Dulles State Office Building, the tallest building in Watertown, NY, and St. Mary’s Church, Clayton, are dwarfed by modern industrial wind technology.

If Iberdrola proceeds with Horse Creek, the project will become embroiled in a contentious and costly administrative law proceeding. Iberdrola will use the procedural advantages of Article 10 to oppose Home Rule and attempt to override opposition from residents, local governments and other project stakeholders.

Local officials and residents have worked tirelessly to stop the project, adapting their efforts to the new siting process. Both the Towns of Orleans and Clayton publicly oppose the project. Clayton is expected to eliminate its so-called Wind Overlay District, signaling that industrial wind turbines are not a permitted use within town boundaries. Residents and visitor opposition has also grown steadily as more Thousand Islanders become aware of the project. More than 400 public comments have been registered with the Public Service Commission opposing the project: River Rats Wind

The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), a long-time opponent of industrial wind within the viewshed of the St. Lawrence River, recently reconfirmed its opposition to Horse Creek, raising concerns that the project would damage the area’s fragile and especially rare environmental features including alvar limestone bedrock. TILT has also raised concerns about higher than estimated bird and bat kills caused by the Wolfe Island turbines as well as the visual transformation and viewshed loss that would disrupt the region’s visual, tourism-based economy.

Also, a new single-issue organization, River Residents Against Turbines (River RATs), has recently launched a website ( and social media campaign ( promising to unite Thousand Islanders and fight Horse Creek, championing the belief that regardless of one’s personal stance on renewable energy, all can agree that the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River viewshed is the wrong place for industrial wind.

The Horse Creek Wind Project will continue to be argued passionately. Whatever relationship you believe the Thousand Islands should have with industrial wind, make sure that you speak up, get involved and take action before it is too late to have your voice heard.

By Jack Woodward

Watertown native Jack Woodward is a retired USAF Lt. General and Senior Executive with Accenture Federal Services. He is a permanent resident of Wellesley Island (channel side) and a strong supporter of preserving the St Lawrence River environment.

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George Luck
Comment by: George Luck
Left at: 8:02 PM Monday, May 15, 2017
Neither wind nor solar power generation could exist without government subsidies. And by 'government' I mean you and me. Between the inefficiencies of the systems, the confiscatory /KW rates granted to these companies and the contracts that continue to pay regardless of whether the wind blows or the sun shines, there is little doubt that the whole 'green energy' industry is an artificial construct. Anyone in Ontario who wants to know why their electric bill has reached the stratosphere, need only look at these immense white elephants.

There are plans afoot to plant another number of these monstrosities on the Admiralty Shoals in Kingston harbour. These are some of the most historic waters in Canada. La Salle paddled here. The Royal Navy sailed these waters to protect Canada in 1812. Pilots from the Air Training Schools trained here during WWII. And now it is to be turned into, like the Thousand Islands, an industrial installation.

Which raises the question; "Why must our environment and history be destroyed to save the environment?" Madness.
Anne D. Potter
Comment by: Anne D. Potter
Left at: 10:01 PM Monday, May 15, 2017
I am 100% behind you, Jack. I hate the appearance of the towers and feel that the loveliness of nature, the peace and quiet we now enjoy will disappear.
George Textor
Comment by: George Textor
Left at: 3:53 PM Tuesday, May 16, 2017
This type of wind farm is unsightly, is uneconomic and a tax boondoggle, kills lots of birds and bats, a should have no place in the River watershed.
George Textor
Douglas Island
Art Pundt
Comment by: Art Pundt
Left at: 8:21 PM Wednesday, May 17, 2017
I am a big fan of TI Life, but I have to take issue with this statement in this article. I have been deeply involved in the local wind issue for a decade and am opposed to wind development, especially in the viewshed of the 1000 Islands.

"Through the passage of specific wind district laws and zoning requirements, local residents and town governments in Cape Vincent and Hammond successfully dissuaded wind developers from building additional turbines, some of which would have been constructed only 1200 feet from the St. Lawrence River."

This is a highly inaccurate conclusion not based in the facts. yes, the towns of Hammond and Cape Vincent have wind laws, NEITHER dissuaded the wind developers. The developers left on their own due to BP in Cape Vincent getting out of the wind business world wide, ot just CV, and a temporary reduction in the tax subsidies for wind. Not that Iberdrola is back big time in NNY.

This is also a very dangerous conclusion which ignores the facts, since the state NOT the towns control the wind siting process with the Art 10 siting law. And the state Art 10 siting process has the power to OVERRRIDE local laws they see as too burdensome to the developer. The state will determine if your wind law is valid or not, and with the state's rabid wind agenda it is highly likely they will supersede any local zoning that stands in the way. In fact they have done this for other power plants under and old Art 10 law. The answer in my opinion is for local towns to ban together and fight the state head on by prohibiting industrial scale wind development near the 1000 Islands. It's not a wind issue we are fighting now. It is a fight of local towns to exercise their rights under home rule.
John Droz, jr.
Comment by: John Droz, jr.
Left at: 6:03 AM Sunday, May 21, 2017

As a scientist and energy expert, and NNY person intimately familiar with the TI region, I'd say that the general thrust of your article was very good. Three observations:

1 - The main reason that Hammond succeeded in their wind energy fight was that they threatened to pass a Property Value Guarantee. Briefly, shortly after they wrote it up the developer left.

2 - The statement that "Article 10 takes away local project approval authority..." is a common, but inaccurate reading of the Article 10 Statute. Local towns retain the authority to pass a carefully-written, protective wind law.

3 - Add to your list of worthwhile sites: That has been around the longest, and it has the most thorough net financial analysis of the Horse Creek project.
Jim Wiegand
Comment by: Jim Wiegand
Left at: 2:40 PM Thursday, June 22, 2017
Will a corrupt legal system bury the scientific facts in this report? Please read, copy and circulate this important 31 page report because this information it does apply to Horse Creek.......*oVq8ZrFM8Fzv7TPf0PiSfk0j8sev7tJaaKwQAt15rP8Gb7eSz74isSU3/NorthRidgeReviewCopy.pdf
Sherri Lange
Comment by: Sherri Lange
Left at: 9:49 AM Sunday, June 25, 2017
Often we hear that residents and seasonal visitors are apathetic about this project. This is NOT our experience. Thanks for an excellent article. I feel we need a complete moratorium, and starting with these sensitive areas, alvars, wetlands, Great Lakes, migration bottlenecks. It is insane to consider this turbine proposal, but they are all insane. The largest successes in fighting BIG WIND, which BTW doesn't even produce electricity, net zero in 2014 worldwide, biggest scam ever, is to scream loudly, be smart, fight and say NO. Let's not pretend they do the planet any good at all, nor clear the air, nor are they safe, clean and free. What complete rubbish.