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Iberdrola back on track with Clayton wind project

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CLAYTON — Iberdrola Renewables will pursue the Horse Creek Wind Farm project, but could deviate from its latest plan.

Breaking its monthslong silence since January, the developer of the proposed wind project in Clayton told town officials it is modifying its proposal in response to “poor economic conditions, coupled with regulatory uncertainty.”

Whether the Spanish energy giant means to downsize its 48-turbine, 96-megawatt wind project proposed in Clayton is unknown. But it now seems unlikely that the company will ditch Horse Creek Wind and move out of Clayton — as it did in the nearby town of Hammond.

“Poor economic conditions, coupled with regulatory uncertainty at the federal and state level, have limited wind development at many projects across the country, including ours here in Jefferson County,” project manager Jenny L. Briot said in her recent letter to Clayton Town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor.

In December, the developer notified the state Public Service Commission of its intent to seek a state Article X siting review, but told the Times in January that it was unsure whether to move forward with the proposed project with so many uncertainties surrounding the wind industry.

The pending expiration of the wind production tax credit — a federal incentive that provides $23 per megawatt of electricity generated for the first decade of a wind farm’s operation — in particular would render the project financially unfeasible.

Even if Congress extends the program by a year before it expires at the end of 2013, Iberdrola would be hard pressed to get shovels in the ground by Dec. 31, 2014, to be eligible for the tax credit.

“As you know, evaluating different turbine types, what we know about the wind’s behavior at the site and the variety of setback requirements means a wide variety of possible configurations. So we haven’t ruled anything out, including making it smaller,” Iberdrola spokesman Paul N. Copleman said Monday in an email to the Times.

At this point, he said, it is “premature” to speculate on a timeline and the company will research and present to the community the “best configuration” for the Horse Creek project before seeking a permit for the work.

In her letter, Ms. Briot said the project’s development team plans to “make modifications to Horse Creek that will improve the economics and efficiency of this project.”

Without sharing any further details on the planned “modifications,” Ms. Briot vaguely hinted at changes in the project’s “boundary and placement of wind turbines” as well.

“Our development team has begun to evaluate these changes and will determine what additional field work is needed to propose a draft layout. We’ll look at environmental factors, electrical and civil engineering requirements, different turbine types, evaluate sound and viewshed impacts and consider a wide range of permitting requirements that apply,” Ms. Briot said in her letter.

Mr. Taylor said the Town Council’s position remains unchanged.

“The town’s position is that if an application were to be received by the PSC, we ask that strong consideration be given to Home Rule, our local zoning ordinance and the years of effort that municipal staff and local officials have dedicated to this issue,” Mr. Taylor said in an email.

To read the full letter go to: http://wdt.me/AoDddn

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