CORPUS CHRISTI – The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing for an environmental study of a proposed offshore wind farm poised to become the first in Texas.
The first public meeting on the project is planned for March 28 in Brownsville. The Corps is accepting public comments that will help define the scope of its environmental study, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2014.
Environmental groups are tracking the project and have raised concerns about the turbines’ effects on birds and sea life.
Austin-based Baryonyx Corp. wants to install about 200 wind turbines in each of three areas off the South Texas coast. The environmental study covers two areas, which the company calls its Rio Grande and North Rio Grande leases, in state waters off South Padre Island.
Baryonyx has not yet applied for a permit at the third site: a 26,200-acre lease east of Mustang Island, or an alternate lease of 45,000 acres south of Corpus Christi and east of Baffin Bay. The company included the alternate because it anticipated military objections to the Mustang Island site. Wind turbines can interfere with radar systems used to track planes.
“We remain committed to developing our more northern site and will submit an application for it in due course,” Mark Leyland, the company’s vice president for offshore wind resources, said in an email.
The Rio Grande plans call for the installation of four substations that will gather electricity from the turbines, convert it to a higher voltage and transfer it to shore through as many as eight cables buried in the seabed. Baryonyx plans to minimize the impact to the seabed by routing cables through previously disturbed areas and areas devoid of critical habitat such as reefs. The company hasn’t settled on the specific type of turbine.
Leyland estimated the company’s Texas coastal fields could generate 3 gigawatts of electricity. One gigawatt can power about 250,000 homes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Baryonyx has built a wind farm off the coast of the United Kingdom.
IF YOU GO
What: Army Corps of Engineers public meeting on proposed offshore wind farm.
When: 6 p.m. March 28
Where: Holiday Inn Brownsville, 3777 North Expressway
Why: Public input will help the Corps determine the scope of an environmental study of the wind farm project off South Padre Island.
HOW TO BE HEARD
Comments must be received by May 14.
Mail: Jayson Hudson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Branch, P.O. Box 1229, Galveston, TX 77553
See documents related to the project at http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/reg/eishttpasp
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