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Lawsuits, lack of regulations, mar wind turbine debate

CORPUS CHRISTI: The real trouble with wind turbines?

It all depends on who you ask.

Corpus Christi leaders have said a Virginia-based wind energy developer’s plans to put a wind turbine farm on the Southside, will kill future growth.

But San Patricio County Judge Terri Simpson says wind energy has been a blessing, not a curse.

“Those farmers that had…was in the right place and was willing to lease, they pretty much became drought-proof,” Simpson says. “And that’s because if they didn’t make a crop they still had an income coming in. And, that was all coming off the wind generator.”

But whether the green-energy giants are going to be good – or bad – for South Texas, is tough to find.

On the surface, wind energy seems to bring more upside than downside..

After all, in Texas, the American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind turbines produce more than 12,300 megawatts of electricity.

That’s enough power to light up 3.3 million, average, American homes.

And yet, despite its growing size and looming footprint, Texas has yet to develop a regulatory framework to govern wind energy development.

So, with no regulatory track record to check to determine which wind turbine operators are legitimate, 6 Investigates checked the courts for lawsuits. And one, caught our attention.

It’s down in Willacy County and is related to the “Magic Valley Wind Project,” a sprawling collection of more than 100 turbines, nestled in the sorghum fields east of Raymondville.

The lawsuit claims the primary companies behind the project – E.On Renewables and Duke Energy – misled the community, property owners and stakeholders on what they were getting.

Sixty plaintiffs allege they’ve suffered “various damages and injuries” because wind turbines are “in close proximity” to their homes.

So, we checked ownership. And in so doing, found that many of the “property owners” don’t own property in there, according to appraisal district records.

But, among a laundry list of claims, the lawsuit says the developers provided an incorrect and misleading noise study that misrepresented how loud the turbines really are.

We checked. A wind turbine, operating under normal conditions, is not as loud as a passing vehicle or a motorcycle.

Which takes us back to the problem: wind energy is attracting as many lawyers as it is lawmakers, who alone have the power to bring it under some sort of regulatory control.”

Meanwhile, other energy producers work within strict regulations and face serious fines for violations.

It’s a disparity that Nueces County Commissioner Mike Pusley says must be addressed.

“You cannot put in a septic system in an unincorporated area of a county without a state permit,” Pusley tells KRIS-6. “But you can go erect a field full of 400-foot-tall wind generator turbines and not ask anybody’s permission.”