The cancellation of a large offshore industrial wind project in South Texas sheds lights on the precarious path that advocates of this so-called alternative technology travel in pursuit of an energy nirvana (“Developer cites cost for pulling plug on South Texas wind farm,” Tuesday).
The dollars and sense of this project simply did not add up last year, and they don’t now. It is wise that the Australian-based inventors took a second look, put their checkbooks back into the desk drawer and averted what assuredly would have been a big money loser for them and the taxpayers and ratepayers.
The economics of wind farms are only part of the sad story, however. The subsequent pages of this story reveal that there are serious environmental and social costs associated with these enterprises. As an illustration, the proposed on-land projects at the Kenedy Ranch along the South Texas coast are saddled with many of these problems.
Experts suggest that the large wind turbines on the Kenedy Ranch may well create havoc in this pristine wildlife environment, which is located in the major migratory path for birds and bats in North America. Promoters of projects on Kenedy Ranch have asked for future electric interconnections for as many as 600 of these massive turbines covering as much as 30,000 acres of pristine coastline along the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay.
The construction of these giant turbines – more than 400 feet in the air – will require enormous concrete and steel footing deep into the ground in an area prone to blowing sand and home to many sensitive and important species of plants and animals. Roads and other infrastructure associated with these giants will forever change the land.
It is important to recognize that Europe, the birthplace of modern-day wind-farm technology, is revising some of its most ambitious projects. The Netherlands and Germany have scaled back major projects after well-documented research suggests wind farms are not all they are promoted to be.
With that said, wind farm technology may have a place in the effort to develop alternative energy supplies. Random efforts, however, to score a quick buck or tax deduction by embracing this politically correct energy source are risky at best and can be very damaging in the short and long term.
State and federal governments would be well-advised to consider a reasoned public policy in developing industrial wind project technology. They can start by enacting into law a simple permit process to ensure the environmental concerns of the entire area are considered before the turbines go up and the human and natural environment brace for the aftermath.
No such law or regulatory structure exists in Texas. Shame on us.
By Jack Hunt
Jack Hunt is president and chief executive officer of King Ranch Inc.
16 June 2007
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