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Hardscrabble Wind Power Project

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Restored approximately 20,000 sf of existing wetland that was impacted by the project and created an additional 28,300 sf. This mitigation to impact ratio of 2.4 to 1 exceeds the local and state requirement of 1.5 to 1.
  • Supports biodiversity with at least 3 bird species, 1 mammalian species, and 2 amphibian species observed in the site’s wetland area.
  • Generates an estimated 6.1 million kWh of electricity per year, enough electricity to power over 33,000 typical New York homes. This avoids 160,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Social

  • Achieved low to moderate visual impact for landscape views with high scenic, historic, or community value. These views received a composite Visual Impact Assessment score of 2.01 on a scale of 1 (completely compatible) to 5 (strong visual contrast).
  • Preserved views as anticipated, as demonstrated by pre-construction visual simulations achieving an average of 97.82% accuracy for turbine shaft height based on comparing to post-construction photographs.

Economic

  • Created 200 jobs during the construction of the wind turbines and 6 permanent staff technician jobs.
  • Generates an average $650,000 of income annually through lease payments to landowners providing acreage for wind turbines on farmland.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Environmental Design & Research

  • Project Type

    Working landscape

  • Former Land Use

    Agriculture

  • Location

    Fairfield, New York 13406
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    6,550 acres

  • Budget

    $200 million

  • Completion Date

    2011

Hardscrabble Wind Farm is a 6,550-acre commercial wind farm located in the towns of Fairfield, Norway, and Little Falls, New York. The wind farm is one of the first major installations of 100-meter turbines in North America. The 37-turbine, 74-megawatt project produces enough electricity to power over 33,000 typical New York homes each year. The region is primarily rural, with most of the wind turbines located on agricultural land. Design strategies and construction techniques were used to minimize disturbance to existing vegetation, streams, and wetlands, including use of existing roads and drainage systems, invasive species control, and wetland restoration. Landscape architects participated in the design of the wind farm by using visual impact assessments to develop scenarios demonstrating how the wind farm would engage with the landscape in order to preserve important natural and cultural viewsheds. 3-D models were used to simulate several critical viewpoints, and a first-of-its-kind animated simulation was created to accurately depict the visual impact of the turbine blades in motion. Advances in turbine technology allowed the final number of turbines to be reduced to from 61 to 37, achieving a low to moderate visual impact for high-value landscape viewsheds within this rural area.

  • The Hardscrabble Wind Power Project used construction techniques intended to minimize disturbance to existing vegetation, streams, and wetlands during the installation of thirty-seven 100-meter turbines across an area of 6,550 acres. The turbines have a base diameter of 13 ft and a top diameter of 8 ft. Their bases are made of poured concrete and steel.
  • The site also has 2 permanent meteorological towers made of approximately 253-ft-high self-supporting lattice steel structures with wind monitoring instruments.
  • The project is located in an area of seasonally wet soils, requiring the site design to include drainage and erosion control in order to limit stormwater and water quality impacts. Minimizing construction impacts was accomplished through a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The SWPPP specified practices such as stabilization of bare areas of land, creation of temporary erosion and sediment control features, protection of important trees and roots, and stabilizing construction entrances to prevent the spread of debris from construction vehicles.
  • Throughout the project, strategies were implemented to control the spread of invasive species within the project site’s federally- and state-regulated wetlands, streams, and riparian areas through the use of an Invasive Species Control Plan (ISCP).
  • In addition to protecting existing wetlands and restoring disturbed wetlands, in-kind wetlands were created that ultimately increased the total wetland coverage area in the project site. 20,000 sf of existing native wetland was successfully restored, with an additional 28,300 sf of wetland added. Successful regeneration of wetlands included repopulation of native wetland plant species including broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia), softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia), and green bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens).
  • In order to minimize disturbance to agricultural land, existing farm and logging roads were used during construction and continue to be used for turbine access. 13 miles of new or upgraded gravel access roads were also added. Timber mats were used during construction to minimize damage by heavy equipment.
  • Because the site is located within a heavily agricultural community, existing drainage systems used to remove excess water from agricultural soil were kept intact or repaired after construction.
  • Where 3 or more underground electric cables were run parallel from the base of the wind turbines through active agricultural fields for the purpose of electric power transfer, the topsoil was stripped and stockpiled prior to cable installation. Following cable installation, trenches were backfilled and pre-construction contours reestablished to mitigate the impact on the existing landscape.

Challenge

  • Displace fossil fuel production through the provision of renewable energy.
  • Preserve viewsheds of historic, cultural, and community importance, as well as the rural, agricultural character of the region.
  • Offset disturbance to existing wetlands during construction by increasing the total wetland acreage in the project area.

The landscape architect prepared a Visual Impact Assessment for the original project with a study of the wind farm as it was first designed, with 61 turbines. However, as a result of proposed turbine/layout changes which reduced the number of turbines to 37 (due to advances in turbine technology over the course of project development), the landscape architect prepared a Supplemental Visual Impact Assessment for the revised project. The visual simulations were created using high-resolution computer enhanced image processing to develop realistic simulations of the completed project, showing anticipated visual changes that would occur as a result of wind turbine construction. Traditionally, physical balloons have been used to simulate the heights and locations of proposed wind turbines for field photography. The Hardscrabble Wind Farm project used more modern methods of siting the proposed turbines in the field with drones and Google Earth, which were more accurate than traditional balloon siting methods.

The landscape architect also evaluated the overall design impact of the project by defining areas of similar landscape character, called Landscape Similarity Zones, based on features such as landform, vegetation, water, and land use patterns. These Landscape Similarity Zones were assessed based on landscape composition; form, line, color, and texture; focal point; order; scenic or recreational value; duration of view; atmospheric conditions; lighting direction; project scale; spatial dominance; visual clutter; and movement. The overall goal was to accurately simulate wind turbine heights, with high levels of precision for turbine shaft height comparison between pre-construction simulations and post-construction photographs.

  • In areas where the wind farm design would impact wetlands of more than 1/2-acre, the project was required to replace an area equivalent to or larger than the amount of wetland lost. The replacement wetlands were successful; however, the growth of cattail species caused their percentage of species makeup as compared to other native wetland species to exceed the ratio specified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC). To correct this, the landscape architect supplemented this area with a shrub buffer to return the vegetative composition to an acceptable ratio of native wetland plants.
  • The landscape architects determined that the predefined scoring values of 1 through 3 for visual quality as denoted in the Army Corps of Engineers’ Visual Resources Assessment Procedure methods did not allow for enough differentiation of visual impact between views. To address this, they created a 1 through 9 scoring scale that was later converted back to 1-3 for the purposes of adhering to the accepted methodology.

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Environmental Design & Research, Landscape Architecture, Engineering & Environmental Services, D.P.C.
Developer: Atlantic Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect served as the lead environmental permitting consultant during project permitting and construction. This included assistance with project layout and siting, wetland delineation, state and federal wetland permitting, ecological surveys, visual impact assessment, an animated video simulation, compensatory wetland mitigation plans, and regulatory agency consultation. In addition, the landscape architect coordinated the project’s New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, including preparation of Draft, Supplemental, and Final Environmental Impact Statements. The landscape architect provided compliance-related services before, during, and after project construction, including preparation of the Environmental Compliance Manual, performing daily observation/reporting of construction and restoration activities, conducting stormwater pollution prevention plan inspections, and preparing wetland mitigation monitoring reports.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Aidan Ackerman, Assistant Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Research Fellow: Robin Hoffman, Associate Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Research Fellow: Maren King, Associate Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Research Assistant: Meaghan Keefe, MLA Candidate, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Firm Liaison: Gordon Perkins, Senior Project Manager, Environmental Design and Research
August 2019

To cite:

Ackerman, Aidan, Robin Hoffman, Maren King, and Meaghan Keefe. “Hardscrabble Wind Power Project.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2019. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1540

Topics

Habitat creation, preservation & restoration, Populations & species richness, Energy use, Scenic quality & views, Job creation, Other economic, Wetland, Onsite energy generation, Native plants, Resilience

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