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Wind farm company halts SPI project

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – An Austin-based company has pulled a project to build Texas’ first offshore wind farm about 10 miles from the coast, citing concerns over the threat to migratory birds, officials said Monday.

Baryonyx Corporation withdrew its permits May 14 but now plans a project to desalinate seawater and generate electricity, said Sandra Arnold, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, said the company continues to lease offshore property at the original site.

Baryonyx did not respond to messages requesting comment Monday.

Since 2009, Baryonyx planned to build 300 wind turbines about 10 miles off the coast, rising 541 feet above the water.

The company’s project was among seven originally tapped for possible $47 million U.S. Department of Energy grants, but was not among three companies to land the grants on May 7, according to the agency’s press release.

Baryonyx did not offer an explanation for its decision to withdraw from the project nor did it disclose details about its proposed plans, Arnold said.

“The district was informed that Baryonyx intends to redefine the project,” Arnold said.

South Padre Island City Manager William DiLibero said the company’s decision to withdraw from the wind farm project was based on concerns over threats to migratory birds.

“If there’s a threat to migratory birds we’re pleased to see the (company) is pulling its application,” DiLibero said. “If that’s what their research is indicating, I think it’s a good thing they’re withdrawing their application.”

Jim Chapman, chairman of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club, said two major migratory bird flyways converge in the area.

“You could not put a wind farm in a worst place, in my opinion,” Chapman said.

Dennis Franke, a realtor whose family helped develop South Padre Island, said the wind farm would have marred the Island’s resort ambience.

“We’re elated. It’s beautiful news,” Franke said of the company’s decision to withdraw. “(Turbines) would basically be seen in front of the South Padre Island area and all night long their red lights would go on and off. That’s not a plus for a resort area. That’s a negative.”

Jody Hughes, executive director of the Island’s Property Owners Who Care, said the wind farm would have devalued home prices here.

“A lot of people out here wouldn’t be happy,” Hughes said. “It would block our views. Our organization has been watching it for a long time.”

Franke urged area officials to lobby against any further attempts to develop wind farms off the Island’s coast.

“We really have to lobby the Legislature and the (General) Land Office so they don’t go ahead and do this again,” Franke said.