CORPUS CHRISTI – The future of a proposed wind farm remains unclear, weeks after the City Council publicly voted to begin pursuing annexation of a portion of the project site that falls within Corpus Christi’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The move was made to either stop the construction of the wind farm, proposed to populate 175 wind turbines over 20,000 acres of private land leased by Chapman Ranch, or regulate its development, city officials have said. The area sited for the project includes land south of Farm-to-Market Road 2444 and South Staples Street, much of it west of State Highway 286, with an unspecified portion laying in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. City leaders fear its development would stunt Corpus Christi’s southern crawl of residential and commercial growth, among other concerns.
Karlis Povisils, a spokesman for Apex Clean Energy, said late last week it was not known exactly what effect the annexation move would have, if any, on the company’s plans to construct the wind farm, which is expected to generate as much as 350 megawatts of electricity – enough energy to power about 100,000 homes.
“Just as the city is weighing its options in terms of the annexation process, we’re similarly in an information-gathering mode, figuring out what the city’s rights are,” he said.
Company officials, in the meantime, are also continuing to evaluate technical issues, including those with the Federal Aviation Administration, Povisils said.
“The earliest the project would start construction is March 2015 … there’s … some time to try and figure this out,” he said.
The proposed wind farm has stirred considerable controversy in the area.
In recent council meetings, residents who would live nearby have protested the wind farm, citing concerns ranging from devalued property and impeded views to noise pollution and environmental concerns. Resolutions opposing the wind farm have been made by the City Council, the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors and the London Independent School District.
Company officials have said the development could provide an opportunity to increase the tax base without additional infrastructure, and that adding wind turbines can provide opportunities for ranchers and farmers, who are facing a changing agricultural business. The company tries to be a good steward when working with governmental entities and residents, said Jeff Ferguson, vice president of project development for the region, in a March interview with the Caller-Times.
This week a group of local broadcasters and officials met to discuss the proposed wind farm, said Don Dunlap, president and general manager of South Texas Public Broadcasting System. There is a concern its operations could have the potential to impact broadcast signals, he said, adding officials are researching the issue, and hope to have definitive answers in the coming weeks.
The closest broadcast tower is positioned about a mile from the perimeter of the area the company is considering, according to a map, Dunlap said.
Povisils said he was unaware of any concerns related to broadcast transmissions. But the company studies what are called microwave signals to ensure the turbines are not placed in positions that would block its path and disrupt various transmissions, he said. It was not immediately clear if those transmissions included television specifically.
Should a potential conflict be apparent, the company would either move the turbine, or find some other kind of mitigation, Povisils said.
“The point is, we do look at the impact on telecommunications where those things can be mapped, and we stay out of the way,” he said.
There is also a question about how the wind farm may affect the National Weather Service’s Doppler radar, located at the airport. An item shown on an upcoming weather workshop for media will address the potential impacts of the wind farm on the NWS’ Doppler radar.
Generally speaking, the NWS tries to avoid wind turbines going up within four kilometers because it can block the radar’s beam, obstructing its view, said John Metz, a warning coordination meteorologist.
In an email to the Caller-Times, Povisils wrote that there is an established process for such issues.
“We used an online tool to discover that we are within the ‘consult’ range of that radar and will file the turbine layout with the National Telecommunications Information Administration,” he wrote. “Various agencies will weigh in (through) the NTIA and we will engage in individual consultations from there.”