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Wind farm developer working on a compromise

CORPUS CHRISTI – A possible compromise on the layout of a proposed wind farm could be in the works.

Representatives from Apex Clean Energy, the developer of the Chapman Ranch Wind project, said the company sent a letter to local government officials on Monday stating a “clear desire to cooperate” with both the Corpus Christi City Council and Nueces County Commissioners Court, which both adopted resolutions opposing the project. Apex’s letter also announced the ongoing development of a compromise proposal, “including a voluntary reduction of the Chapman Ranch Wind project within the city’s existing extraterritorial jurisdiction,” as part of that cooperative effort.

Apex Clean Energy was pursuing the construction of an estimated 20,000-acre wind farm, populated by about 175 turbines, on private lands leased near Chapman Ranch. Part of the site – which was expected to have a capacity of 350 megawatts, or enough energy to power 100,000 homes – includes an area within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

It was not immediately known the precise changes Apex was considering. Dahvi Wilson, an Apex spokeswoman, wrote in an email to the Caller-Times company officials were evaluating plans to determine where they could be flexible.

A number of concerns about the proposed wind farm have been raised, but the primary driver of discussion from city officials have been fears that the construction of the project could halt the city’s southward crawl of commercial and residential growth.

In Apex’s letter, company representatives contend there has been no analysis performed to support the argument that the farm could prevent the city’s growth, asserting that their own understanding of “growth trends suggests that there will not be significant growth in the area of Chapman Ranch for 30-50 years.” By that time, the wind farm will have reached the end of its operational life, according to the document.

The letter was sent a day before the Corpus Christi City Council is slated to discuss annexation in executive session during its regular Tuesday meeting.

The council voted in April to pursue annexation of areas within the project boundaries that fell within Corpus Christi’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. At the time, City Manager Ron Olson said the intention would be to prevent the construction of the wind farm proposed by Apex Clean Energy, or if that failed, to regulate the project.

On Monday, City Council members Colleen McIntyre and David Loeb said they would be open to discussion.

Should there be a way to resolve the issues the city has raised, Loeb said he’d be happy for the project to move forward.

“Our fundamental issue was not that we don’t like wind turbines,” he said. “We don’t like the effects of this specific one, in the way it was laid out.”

McIntyre said she has always been open to “fully vetting any solution that has come up,” but added she had not yet seen the proposal.

It’s expected that proposal would be prepared and disseminated in July, states the letter, signed by Jeff Ferguson, vice president of project development. He suggests the city and county, along with Apex, engage in a fact-finding exercise to address concerns. The letter includes several subsequent pages disputing the accuracy of some of the arguments made against the construction of the wind farm.

Apex representatives hope the proposal could “eliminate the perceived need to ‘strip annex’ all or part of the private property that comprises the Chapman Ranch Wind project,” Ferguson wrote.

“Apex is a fervent defender of the private property rights that have made Texas a leader in energy development of all types,” he wrote. “We are also committed to working with local communities to ensure that our projects can coexist with their long-term plans.”