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Wind turbine companies deny lawsuit claims

RAYMONDVILLE – Two wind farms have agreements to overhaul or remove wind turbines that stand on the property of area residents, some of whom have filed a federal lawsuit that claims the plans do not exist, company officials said.

Twenty-three residents including Willacy County Commissioner Noe Loya and Precinct 3 Justice of Peace Juan Silva Jr. filed the lawsuit against Duke Energy and E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, arguing the companies built wind turbines that create noise, devalue property, pose possible health risks and spoil the county’s landscape.

The companies denied the accusations.

The lawsuit also claims the companies and county did not plan to remove the turbines that stand 467-feet high and weigh 7 tons when their approximately 20-year lifespan expires.

“Once the turbines cease to function or fall into a state of disrepair, and since there is no plan or agreement between the defendants and the county to remove the turbines once their beneficial use has ceased, permanent and irreparable harm will be caused to the area,” the lawsuits states.

But the wind farms will not abandon the wind turbines, company officials said.

“We have a contractual obligation to our landowners to remove or replace turbines at the end of (a) lease and we will honor those obligations,” Elon Hasson, E.ON’s spokesman in Chicago, said in an email.

Tammie McGee, Duke’s spokeswoman in Charlotte, N.C., said the company plans to maintain its turbines to operate them at least 25 years before their refurbishment or removal.

“Once a site reaches the end of its lifespan, we could either repower the facility with new technology or dismantle it,” McGee said in an email. “Per our lease agreements in South Texas, we will fund a decommissioning account to ensure the projects are properly dismantled at the appropriate time.”

McGee said the wind turbines’ manufacturer has employees in the area to maintain the machines.

“At our wind facilities, we perform preventive maintenance at or above the manufacturer-recommended procedures and guidelines to ensure our equipment runs safely,” McGee said. “We also go a step further and practice condition-based monitoring, which means we are constantly assessing turbines based on the use of sensors, tests and software programs, which allows us to maximize efficiency and extend the productive lifespan of the equipment. A well-maintained wind power project, like the way Duke Energy Renewables operates its wind facilities, should last 25 years or more.”

Hasson said a maintenance team responds to service E.ON’s turbines.

“We have local maintenance teams which service the turbines to ensure they are working as designed and functioning properly as much as possible,” Hasson said. “We can typically have a response team to a malfunctioning turbine very quickly to make sure any issues are dealt with promptly. We develop all of our wind farms in a safe, state-of-the-art and responsible manner.”