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Resource Documents: Texas (20 items)

RSSTexas

Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.


Date added:  October 23, 2017
Texas, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

American Bird Conservancy letters to EDF Renewables: Vista Mountain project

Author:  Hutchins, Michael

I am writing again to express American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) serious concern over EDF Renewable’s proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project in the sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers region (in Hamilton, Coryell, Lampasas and Mills Counties) and associated high voltage lines and towers to connect it to the existing grid. This is the second letter we have written; the purpose of this correspondence is to point out some additional concerns.

ABC is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas (www.abcbirds.org). ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

ABC is a proponent of Bird Smart Wind Energy, which is described in some detail in Hutchins et al. (2016). Careful wind generation siting is crucial in preventing unintended impacts to native bird and bat species. ABC is concerned that the proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project and its associated power lines and towers pose an unacceptably high risk to protected U.S. wildlife. This is especially true, as we have become aware that there are other proposed and existing wind energy facilities in this ecologically sensitive area, including the Priddy, Goldthwaite and Flattop Wind Energy Projects. As such, the cumulative impact of any future development on wildlife becomes an important issue. As you may know, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that cumulative impacts be taken into consideration during pre-construction risk assessments. This argues for a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), not a cursory Environmental Assessment (EA).

The presence of Threatened and Endangered species in the area, such as the Whooping Crane, are also of great concern to us as a bird conservation organization. We recently conducted a study of Whooping Crane stopover sites (Moore et al, 2017), overlaying them with existing and proposed wind turbines and power lines and towers. The current siting of wind turbines probably poses limited threat to this species; however, the power lines and towers are another story. Collisions with power lines and towers are a major killer of cranes worldwide (Morkill and Anderson, 1991, Janss and Ferrer 2000, Sundar and Choudhury 2005, Shaw et al. 2010, Stehn and Wassenich, 2008, Wright et al. 2009). Thus, the new power lines and towers you propose to connect your facility to the existing grid may increase the risk to this species in its Migratory Corridor. Subsequently, approval of this project will require Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act and a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This should be based on at least three years of pre-construction risk studies, all of which should be done by independent experts (not paid consultants to the industry) using standardized methods.

Thank you for your consideration of ABC’s views. ABC will be watching this proposed project and reviewing any risk assessments produced very carefully.

Michael Hutchins, October 20, 2017

[References available in original document]

(((( o ))))

I am writing to express American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) serious concern over EDF Renewable’s proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project in the sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers region (in Hamilton, Coryell, Lampasas and Mills Counties) and associated high voltage lines and towers to connect it to the existing grid.

ABC is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas (www.abcbirds.org). ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

ABC supports the development of clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind power, but also believes that it must be done responsibly and with minimal adverse impact on our public trust resources, including native species of birds and bats, and particularly Threatened, Endangered and other protected species.

ABC is a proponent of Bird Smart Wind Energy, which is described in some detail in Hutchins et al. (2016). Careful wind generation siting is crucial in preventing unintended impacts to native bird and bat species, and ABC is concerned that the proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project and its associated power lines and towers pose an unacceptably high risk to protected U.S. wildlife.

This project will reportedly consist of 91 500-foot tall turbines set atop 1,400-foot vistas and spread out over four counties and with a four mile-long high voltage line and towers (and the possibility of additional lines) connecting it to the existing grid. All of the counties the project encompasses are located in the ecologically sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers Region on the Edwards Plateau. The Edwards Plateau is a region of west-central Texas bounded by the Balcones Fault to the south and east, the Llano Uplift and the Llano Estacado to the north, and the Pecos River and Chihuahuan Desert to the west. The cities of San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio roughly surround the region.

The landscape of the plateau (eroded flat-topped buttes and escarpment capped by Edwards limestone) is mostly savanna covered primarily with juniper and live oak trees and a mesquite-acacia mix over short grasses, which grow well in the alkaline soils. Extensive grasslands are interspersed with valleys, with high, narrow wooded, mesa-like divides. The area is largely undeveloped, containing many ranches that raise cattle, sheep and goats. Wildlife is abundant. The region is a birder’s paradise, with many species either residing in, wintering in, or moving through the area during their annual migrations. These include several Threatened and Endangered Species, such as the Black-Capped Vireo, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Red Knot and Whooping Crane (the location is within the whooping Crane Migratory Corridor). It is also home to many declining avian species of conservation concern, such as the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, Harris’ Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, Orchard Oriole, Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Mccowan’s Longspur, Short-eared Owl, Prothonotary Warbler, Sprague’s Pipit, Dickcissel, Fox Sparrow, Little Blue Heron, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Burrowing Owl, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Bell’s Vireo, and Hudsonian Godwit (FWS 2017). Federally protected Bald Eagles are also present and are being sighted with increasing regularity.

When it comes to wind energy, siting is everything, and turbines and their associated power lines and towers, need to be kept away from large concentrations of birds and bats, such as key migratory routes, and foraging and breeding areas (Arnett and May 2016, Hutchins et al, 2016). Wind turbines and their associated power lines and towers, are among the fastest growing threats to birds and bats in North America. Hundreds of thousands of birds are killed annually by the fast-spinning turbine blades (Smallwood and Thelander 2008, Loss et al. 2013, Smallwood, 2013, Erickson et al. 2014), and that number grows with each turbine built. Bats are affected too, with around 888,000 being lost annually at 2012 build-out levels (Smallwood 2013), possibly because tree-roosting species are attracted to turbines (Cryan et al. 2014). Fragile-bodied bats can even succumb to the pressures created when the turbine blades pass through the air (known as barotrauma) (Grodsky et al. 2011).

The actual numbers of birds and bats killed may be much higher because nearly all mortality data are collected by paid consultants to the wind industry—a direct conflict of interest (Hutchins et al. 2016), and sampling is often insufficient or non-standardized (Beston et al. 2015, Johnson et al. 2016). Based on the Smallwood (2013) and Loss et al. (2013) studies, ABC estimates that around 5 million birds and many more bats will be killed by wind turbines alone by 2050 or earlier when wind energy produces 35% of our electrical energy (Pyper 2015). This is especially true, since our native birds are already in serious trouble, with fully one-third of North America’s species requiring concerted conservation action to ensure their continued existence (North American Bird Conservation Initiative 2016).

Yet the numbers are far higher, going into the tens of millions annually when collisions and electrocutions at power lines and towers are included (Loss et al. 2015). The generation of energy and its transportation cannot be separated as risks to wildlife, and many additional transmission lines are being built to accommodate renewable energy (Magill 2014).

Furthermore, these figures do not take into account the effects of habitat loss, road-building and other infrastructure construction that are associated with wind energy facilities, and that can have serious impacts on birds and bats, such as displacement, migratory impediments, reproductive failure, isolation and loss of genetic diversity, and increased predation (Schroeder 2010, Cryan 2011, Stevens et al. 2013, LeBeau et al. 2014, DeGregorio et al. 2015, Schaffer and Buhl, 2015, Winder et al. 2015, Associated Press 2016, Mahoney and Chalfoun 2016).

We understand that Fort Hood was contacted as a prospective buyer for energy produced by this project. Only some 19 miles away from the proposed Vista Mountain project, this facility has been an important center for Golden-Cheeked Warbler and Black-Capped Vireo conservation (Ferrell et al. 2013). Furthermore, two Endangered Whooping Cranes were sighted at Fort Hood during Spring, 2017 (http://whoopingcrane.com/spring-migration-2017/). The Department of Defense has an excellent record with regard to bird conservation and ABC would therefore be surprised if it would consider purchasing power from such a poorly placed wind energy facility. Responsible energy consumers should first assure that the wind energy facilities they buy from are bird and bat friendly. This was demonstrated most recently with ABC’s and Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s success in stopping a large wind turbine to be built at the Ohio Air National Guard’s Camp Perry facility in one of the world’s greatest concentrations of migratory birds and bats within 0.6 miles of Lake Erie (ABC 2017).

We realize that these projects are in their early stages of development. However, we wanted to record our concerns before the process proceeds any farther. Both the turbines and associated power transmission lines appear to be poorly sited with regard to bird and bat conservation. At the very least, these projects will require extensive, independent surveys of the birds and bats that inhabit the region, as well as an Avian and Bat Conservation Plan, a compensatory mitigation plan (including a plan for installing APLIC-approved mitigations for the new power lines and towers, APLIC 2012), and plan for the independent, standardized monitoring of bird and bat mortality post-construction. Applications for incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act are also warranted.

ABC would be pleased to consult with you as this project proceeds. We also intend to monitor this project very closely for adherence to all state and federal guidelines, to communicate with local residents concerned about the project, and to raise our concerns with elected officials, state and federal wildlife authorities, and any prospective buyers of energy.

Thank you for your consideration of ABC’s views.

Michael Hutchins, July 31, 2017

[References available in original document]

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Date added:  August 28, 2016
Texas, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Are Tree Bats Foraging at Wind Turbines in the Southern Great Plains?

Author:  Foo, Cecily

[Abstract] Although the ultimate causes of high tree bat fatalities at wind farms are not well understood, several lines of evidence suggest that bats are attracted to wind turbines. One such hypothesis is that bats could be attracted to turbines as a foraging resource if insects that bats prey upon are commonly found on and around turbines. To investigate the foraging attraction hypothesis, we conducted a series of surveys at a wind farm in north‐central Texas from 2012‐2015 to determine if eastern red (Lasiurus borealis) and hoary (Lasiurus cinereus) bats forage on insects near wind turbines. First, we conducted light trapping surveys to characterize the insect community. Second, we assessed bat diets using DNA barcoding of the stomach contents of 45 eastern red and 24 hoary bat carcasses collected in fatality searches. Third, we compared the turbine insect community to the diet analysis results. The insects present at wind turbines were similar to what we found in the bat stomach contents, and those same insects were abundant at turbines throughout the survey period. Together these results provide support for the foraging attraction hypothesis.

Thesis by Cecily Fraser Foo, MS 2016, Department of Biology, Texas Christian University

Download original document: “Are Tree Bats Foraging at Wind Turbines in the Southern Great Plains?

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Date added:  September 28, 2015
Contracts, TexasPrint storyE-mail story

Neighbor Agreement

Author:  “Wind Company”

In consideration of the payment made by Wind Company to Owner, the mutual promises and covenants of the Parties and other valuable consideration, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, Owner and Wind Company hereby agree as follows.

1. Non-Disturbance and Waiver. Owner shall not engage in any activity that might disturb or cause interference with the construction and/or operation of the Wind Project and waives any and all claims based on nuisance or similar doctrines arising from the Wind Project or any effects of the Wind Project. Owner agrees during the Term not to build any structure more than sixty feet (60′) in height on that portion of the Property within 1,000 feet of any wind turbine on the Wind Property Property existing as of the date of Completion of Construction (hereinafter defined). The term of this Agreement shall commence upon the Effective Date, and shall terminate on the date that the Wind Project is no longer producing and delivering electricity to a third party purchaser of said electricity.

2. Setback from Residences. Wind Company warrants that no wind turbines shall be located within 1,000 feet of any habitable residence, church or school building, io the extent the foregoing exist as of the Effective Date and are in usable condition (provided, however, that the foregoing restrictions shall not apply to seasonally used residences such as hunting shacks or to derelict structures no longer being used by Owner.)

3. Fee. Owner and Wind Company acknowledge that during construction of the Wind Project there may be noise related to construction and other such as traffic inconvenience, dust and dirt on cars and other effects. Tn order to compensate Wind Company [sic] for such construction impacts and the other rights and waivers granted herein, Wind Company shall pay Owner a fee in accordance with the side letter dated of even date herewith (the “Payment”), one-half of which is payable thirty (30) days after the Commencement of Construction and the other half payable thirty (30) days after the Completion of Construction. “Completion of Construction” shall mean the date when all of the generating units and the related equipment for the Wind Project on the Wind Project Property have been installed in their entirety.

4. Default. If Wind Company fails to pay the Payment by the date specified in Section 2 or 3 above, and such failure continues for thirty (30) business days after Wind Company’s receipt of notice thereof from Owner, this Agreement shall terminate, and Wind Company shall have no further rights and remedies hereunder.

5. Mortgages and Assignments. Wind Company may, without need to obtain Owner’s consent or approval, (i) mortgage, collaterally assign, hypothecate, pledge or otherwise encumber and grant security interests in all or any part of its interest in this Agreement; and (ii) assign, transfer or otherwise convey all or part of its interest in this Agreement. Owner may sell, mortgage, assign or convey the Property without consent of Wind Company, but any conveyance shall be subject to the terms of this Agreement. In the event of a transfer of the Property by Owner, Owner shall obtain a covenant from the transferee of such rights that such transferee is subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement and such transferee is entitled to receive the Payment (provided, however, that if the transfer is of less than all of the Property, the Payment will be divided pro rata among the owners of the Property.)

6. Covenants Running With the Land. The Parties hereby agree that all of the covenants and agreements contained in this Agreement touch and concern the real estate described in this Agreement aod are expressly intended to, and shall, be covenants running with the land and shall be binding and a burden upon the Property and Owner’s heirs, administrators, executors, legal representatives, renters, successors and assigns as holders of an estate or interest in the Property and shall benefit Wind Company [emphasis added] and its respective heirs, administrators, executors, legal representatives, successors and assigns and the Wind Project Property. To the extent any of the provisions of this Agreement are not enforceable as covenants running with !;he land the Parties agree that they shall be enforceable as assignable and alienable casements in gross. …

Side Letter to the Neighbor Agreement CONFIDENTIAL

This letter agreement is to set forth the agreement between [ ] and yourselves (“Grantor”) (each a “Party” and collectively the “Parties”), regarding the compensation for that certain Neighbor Agreement (the “Agreement”) between the Parties, dated of even date herewith, and to be recorded in the Official Public Records of [ ]. All capitalized terms not defined herein shall be given the meaning assigned to such terms in the Agreement.

The Parties hereby agree that the amount of the Payment referenced in the Agreement will be $10,000.00 USD, payable as set forth in the Agreement.

You agree that you shall keep this letter agreement confidential and that you shall not disclose the terms hereof, provided however, that you may disclose the terms of this agreement to your lenders, attorneys, accountants and other personal financial advisors, any prospective purchaser of the Property subject to the Agreement, or where required by law or pursuant to lawful process, subpoena or court order; provided that in making such disclosure you advise the party receiving such information of the confidentiality thereof and obtains [sic] the agreement of said party not to disclose such information. …

Download original document: “Neighbor Agreement

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Date added:  November 21, 2014
Economics, Grid, TexasPrint storyE-mail story

ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan

Author:  Electric Reliability Council of Texas

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the independent system operator (ISO) for the Texas Interconnection, encompassing approximately 90% of electric load in Texas. ERCOT is the independent organization established by the Texas Legislature to be responsible for the reliable planning and operation of the electric grid for the ERCOT interconnection. Under the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability construct, ERCOT is designated as the Reliability Coordinator, the Balancing Authority, and as a Transmission Operator for the ERCOT region. ERCOT is also registered for several other functions, including the Planning Authority function.

In June 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Clean Power Plan, which calls for reductions in the carbon intensity of the electric sector. The Clean Power Plan would set limits on the carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, calculated as state emissions rate goals. For Texas, EPA has proposed an interim goal of 853 lb CO₂/MWh to be met on average during 2020-2029, and a final goal of 791 lb CO₂/MWh to be met from 2030 onward. EPA calculated the state-specific goals using a set of assumptions about coal plant efficiency improvements, increased production from natural gas combined cycle units, growth in renewables generation, preservation of existing nuclear generation, and growth in energy efficiency.

ERCOT has evaluated the potential implications of the proposed Clean Power Plan for grid reliability and conducted a modeling analysis of the impacts to generation resources and electricity costs in the ERCOT region. Based on this analysis, ERCOT anticipates that implementation of the proposed Clean Power Plan will have a significant impact on the planning and operation of the ERCOT grid. ERCOT estimates that the proposed CO₂ emissions limitations will result in the retirement of between 3,300 MW and 8,700 MW of coal generation capacity, could result in transmission reliability issues due to the loss of generation resources in and around major urban centers, and will strain ERCOT’s ability to integrate new intermittent renewable generation resources. The Clean Power Plan will also result in increased energy costs for consumers in the ERCOT region by up to 20% in 2020, without accounting for the costs of transmission upgrades, procurement of additional ancillary services, energy efficiency investments, capital costs of new capacity, and other costs associated with the retirement or decreased operation of coal-fired capacity in ERCOT. This summary report describes the results of ERCOT’s analyses.

Summary of ERCOT Concerns with the Clean Power Plan

ERCOT approaches this analysis from the perspective of an independent grid operator in a competitive market which has achieved significant success in using competition to drive efficient outcomes. Existing market policies and investments in transmission in ERCOT have incentivized market participants to maximize the efficiency of the generating fleet and develop new technologies including renewable generation. With recent investments in transmission, more than 11 GW of wind capacity have been successfully integrated into the ERCOT grid. The ERCOT region maintains a forward-looking open market and provides affordable and reliable electricity to consumers in Texas.

ERCOT’s primary concern with the Clean Power Plan is that, given the ERCOT region’s market design and existing transmission infrastructure, the timing and scale of the expected changes needed to reach the CO₂ emission goals could have a harmful impact on reliability. Specifically, implementation of the Clean Power Plan in the ERCOT region, particularly to meet the Plan’s interim goal, is likely to lead to reduced grid reliability for certain periods and an increase in localized grid challenges. There is a natural pace of change in grid resources due to advancing cost effective technologies and changing market conditions.

This pace can be accelerated, but there is a limit to how fast this change can occur within acceptable reliability constraints. It is unknown based on the information currently available whether compliance with the proposed rule can be achieved within applicable reliability criteria and with the current market design. Nevertheless, there are certain grid reliability and management challenges that ERCOT will face as a result of the resource mix changes that the proposed rule will induce:

Download original document: “ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan

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