September 7, 2012

Two Nueces County school districts oppose wind farms

By Mark Collette | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | 6 September 2012

BISHOP – Two Nueces County school districts have adopted resolutions opposing development of wind farms.

The governing boards of the London and Bishop districts each unanimously approved the measures, saying industrial-scale wind turbines are unsightly, devalue surrounding property, create noise and affect wildlife and livestock.

The resolutions come as E.On Climate & Renewables hopes to begin construction on its 80-turbine farm near Petronila in 2013.

“It’s unfortunate so much misinformation about wind farms has taken hold with a small but vocal minority in the area,” E.On spokesman Matt Tulis said in an email.

The project could bring an investment of more than $150 million and direct payments to landowners, construction jobs and local spending in the short term, plus tax benefits and other revenues for local entities in the long term, he said.

The total tax benefit to Bishop Consolidated Independent School District could be as much as $12.3 million, he said.

But school officials are worried that even as the turbines boost commercial property values, they could diminish surrounding residential values.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have 20 to 25 percent growth each year for several years,” London Superintendent Hal Roberts said. “If people know those wind farms are close to housing areas, those values are going to go down.”

Tulis said many of the statements in the resolutions aren’t supported by facts.

“We know that once people have had a chance to see and hear for themselves, they’ll be able to understand wind turbines can coexist with existing uses in a number of settings and see that a lot of these fears are overblown,” he said.

A 2009 study by the Department of Energy’s Berkeley National Laboratory found no widespread correlation between wind turbines and depressed property values, but said some impacts on individual properties couldn’t be overlooked. Wind energy opponents have attacked the methodology of the study.

London passed its resolution Aug. 13. The Petronila project does not extend into the district’s boundaries, but Roberts said the board decided to act after hearing from area residents who had been contacted by a wind company.

“I don’t guess there’s any way we can prevent it, but we can make our opinions heard and see where it goes from there,” Roberts said.

Bishop adopted a nearly identical resolution Aug. 30, adding a clause about potential impacts to Naval Air Station Kingsville. Base officials initially resisted wind development in the area because of conflicts with military radar, but have since reached an agreement with E.On that mitigates the turbines’ interference.

Bishop Superintendent Christina Gutierrez said there’s a concern that turbine installation could boost commercial values enough to alter funding formulas so that the district would have to send revenue back to the state under the Robin Hood-style system that transfers money from property-rich to property-poor districts.

Patrick Woodson, E.On’s chief operating officer in North America, said the company would take the resolutions into consideration.

“I think that when people have a chance to hear all the facts about them, we’ve been able to have really good relations in all the places we operate,” he said.

The biggest hurdle facing the project’s development now may be the expiration of the federal wind production tax credit at the end of 2012. The credit gives producers 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity generated.

The industry is hoping Congress will renew the $12 billion subsidy in a lame-duck session after the November election.

“We’re optimistic that we’re going to see a renewal of those credits,” Woodson said. “We expect this project to be able to move forward and hopefully be in construction in 2013.”

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