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Anti-wind energy group opposes area projects

STEPHENVILLE – A group of local landowners is opposing the construction of transmission lines to bring power generated by wind turbines in West Texas and the Panhandle to customers in Central Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Cross Timbers Landowners Conservancy is urging Erath and Eastland county residents through a Web site, Interstate 20 billboard and an advertisement in a local newspaper to fight the construction of transmission lines and more wind turbines.

“We believe the current rush to wind energy development is bad public policy for Texas,” said Josh Ladd, a member of the group’s board of directors. “We hope to educate the public about the true costs of wind energy and bring regulation to an industry that has none in the state of Texas, as well as bring attention to the excessive tax incentives that the big oil and utility companies receive on a state and federal level.”

But Susan Williams Sloan, of the American Wind Energy Association, said power generated from wind turbines makes good sense.

“Wind power provides clean, cost-effective electricity, emits no pollutants into the air or water, and doesn’t use water, unlike other types of electric power plants,” Williams Sloan said.

“Any power plant, perhaps with the exception of rooftop solar or geothermal, requires transmission lines to carry that power to market,” she said.

Williams Sloan said Texas is projected to need more electricity in the coming years.

“That power has to come from somewhere,” she said. “Wind is an abundant resource in Texas. Good quality sites for wind farms mean that more power can be harnessed per turbine, making it more economical for customers.”

The landowners group’s Web site – www.StopWindTurbines.com – cites several reasons in opposition to wind turbines and transmission lines, including concerns over lower property values, higher electricity costs, lack of state regulation and the possible use of eminent domain to secure land easements for transmission lines.

Terry Hadley, Public Utilities Commission spokesman, said the Texas Legislature in 2005 passed legislation directing the PUC to encourage renewable energy generation.

A report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas suggested a proposed transmission line route that would run from southern Taylor County through Callahan, Eastland and Erath counties before veering southeast toward the Waco area. A second study, expected within the next six months, will further suggest where the lines could go, Hadley said.

Transmission companies will review recommendations made in the second report and then apply, if they choose, in favor of building the transmission lines, he said.

One proposal already on the table is from Lone Star Transmission, which has applied to the PUC to build a 200-mile line from the Abilene area to Fort Worth.

The PUC will hold hearings before approving transmission routes, Hadley said. The PUC is “perhaps two years” from signing off on transmission line routes and such, he said.

Even so, Ladd said his group wants the public to understand what’s going on and the potential for eminent domain to be used.

“Our group’s primary concern regarding eminent domain is that due to wind energy development, redundant new transmission lines (costing approximately $1 million per mile) will need to be built to transport the electricity produced by the wind turbines from the rural areas to more populated areas,” Ladd said.

“The wind energy developers do not bear any of the costs to construct the transmission lines that are built to their projects,” Ladd said. “In fact, through federal tax incentives, they receive $84 million in tax breaks on a $100-million investment. This does not even count the tax savings that Texas school districts are giving to the wind energy companies.”

For example, in Erath County, Ladd said, the Lingleville Independent School District granted a tax abatement to a subsidiary of oil giant BP, which plans to build a wind farm near the Erath County community.

Over 10 years, BP will save $4.65 million in property taxes for a 260-turbine wind farm in the Lingleville school district.

“As taxpayers and ratepayers, we are footing the bill to support an industry that does very little to help meet our growing demand for electricity, does not reduce our oil imports and offers no meaningful impact on reducing pollutants,” Ladd said.

Williams Sloan said ERCOT “found that fuel cost reductions – from adding wind power – were greater than transmission cost increases, meaning a net savings for customers.”

To effectively use wind energy, Williams Sloan said, Texas needs infrastructure to get the power to the people.

“Those lines have not yet been routed, and there will be a public process when those routes are drawn,” she said.

By Doug Myers


10 September 2007