The possibility that giant wind turbines could someday find homes on Gillespie County hills is drawing notice among landowners, business interests and area residents.
Some landowners in a north-central section Gillespie County say they have been contacted by representatives of a company called AES Wind Generation about the possibility of signing lease agreements to allow construction of the large energy-generating towers on their individual properties as part of a larger wind farm operation.
Meanwhile, AES is also reportedly engaged in a preliminary stage of studying whether or not the wind currents in that part of the county would make such a wind farm practical.
(AES was contacted yesterday morning about the exploratory phase now underway in the county but as of press time this morning had not responded.)
More recently, an estimated 25 or more individuals – including a number of landowners from that part of the county as well as real estate businessmen, bankers and others – gathered Friday afternoon at the Gillespie County Law Enforcement Center in Fredericksburg for an impromptu meeting to further discuss the wind farm idea.
Among those landowners attending Friday’s session was Johnny Nicholas whose wife, Brenda, and her family have owned property since 1850 east of U.S. Highway 87 along RM 2323 and who pointed out that wind-generated energy is a clean energy source that does provide income to those on whose land wind turbines are located.
However, Nicholas said that he wonders about how much noise the big turbines make and what possible effects they might have on wildlife, especially migratory birds. He also said on Monday that he has concerns over the visual detractions the towers might have for the surrounding countryside and what effects they might have on property values for neighboring landowners.
“I’m certainly not opposed to wind energy, but to me it makes better sense to have wind farms in other parts of the state,” he said. “I think people here, especially those with property in the section of the county under consideration for a wind farm, need to know more about what it could mean because all of us will be affected whether we sign a contract to allow towers on our property or we don’t.”
In that vein, Nicholas said he favors a bill (HB 2794) introduced by State Rep. Robert Puente of San Antonio which maintains that the state still needs a regulatory or permitting structure to ensure that wind farms do not damage any of the ecologically sensitive areas of Texas.
“There is a need for this state to implement some regulation and permitting of wind farms,” Puente’s bill reads, “to protect the resources of this state and preserve the property rights in this state without unnecessarily impinging on or delaying the development of wind power.”
The bill would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to establish a permit process to take into account the environmental consequences of wind turbines and whether the noise they create or scenic views they may spoil interferes with the property rights of nearby landowners.
Legislation like Puente’s to require new state regulations of wind turbines is being supported by King Ranch, Inc., the agricultural holding company that owns the huge South Texas ranch.
King Ranch has been fighting a proposed coastal wind project in Kenedy County – just east of the ranch – that reportedly would place 267 turbines along the Gulf’s Laguna Madre.
Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman reported on March 28 that Texas has become a leading wind power state, “in part because of state subsidies, an aggressive target for renewable energy generation and a streamlined process to build transmission lines from remote parts of the state.”
But Jack Hunt, CEO of King Ranch, Inc., was quoted in that article as saying that wind turbines are sprouting across Texas without examination of their impact on the environment or nearby property owners.
“Nobody knows the impact of this,” Hunt said. “If I were the steward of a big piece of ground – and I am – I’d be worried what happens 25 or 30 years down the line.”
Back in Gillespie County, landowner Nicholas also has an interest in protecting property in the short term.
“I don’t think I can do something on my property to the detriment of my neighbors,” he said.
25 April 2007
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