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Feds eye wind energy database

WASHINGTON – Wind energy promoters, consumers, landowners and officials may some day search a public database online to find out what kind of wind turbines could go up without causing problems for aviation sites, such as Sheppard Air Force Base.

On Thursday, the House approved a North Texas congressman’s measure to study whether creating the database is doable and what it would take.

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, representing Young County and part of Archer County, is seeking the feasibility study as wind energy development moves forward in Texas.

“The basic point behind this is let’s look at it from every single angle to make sure that we’re doing this right and there aren’t any mistakes,” Neugebauer spokesman Michael Frohlich said.

The House voted 418-0 in favor of the Lubbock Republican’s amendment to an aviation funding bill. Nineteen representatives didn’t vote on the amendment.

The 19th Congressional District representative’s measure charges the Federal Aviation Administration with doing a study on creating a database.

The database would show acceptable height and distance for wind turbines in relation to civilian and military aviation. It would also identify the level of obstruction turbines might mean for aviation sites such as airports.

“From the industry’s point of view, anything that helps minimize the risk of surprises as part of the permitting process is something that’s good,” said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association.

The database is not meant to replace the permitting process for wind farms, Real de Azua said. But it could help wind energy developers and government agencies discover any issues.

Neugebauer received guidance from defense officials and others, Frohlich said. Officials want to make sure development goes forward safely without affecting aviation.

“There’s some affects on radar in terms of homeland security,” Frohlich said.

Radar questions have come up before, Real de Azua said.

Turbines can cause interference, she said. But there are ways to alleviate it, and it can be improved as development continues.

Some military and civilian installations have wind turbines and radar functioning together, Real de Azua said.

“They can coexist, but you also want to be careful, of course,” she said. “Having information is a good thing.”

Neugebauer and Wichita Falls’ U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry voted for the amendment to House Resolution 2881. The $68 billion bill funds the FAA and airport improvements.

But the two representatives voted against the aviation bill, itself.

The House approved the bill 267-151 Thursday afternoon. The Senate is still working on its version.

By Trish Choate/Times Record News Washington Bureau


21 September 2007