SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – A developer that planned Texas’ first offshore wind farm stopped paying on two state offshore leases, one of which expired today, an official said Friday.
Austin-based Baryonyx Corp.’s lease of 19,794 acres about five miles offshore of South Padre Island expired because the company stopped making an annual payment of $2.08 per acre, or $41,171.52, said Jim Suydam, spokesman for the Texas General Land Office in Austin.
Suydam said Baryonyx’s second lease of 21,672 acres a few miles farther north will expire Aug. 12 unless the company pays $45,077.76 by the expiration date.
Baryonyx did not respond to telephone calls Friday.
The company made its last payment of more than $400,000 on Dec. 23, 2013, Suydam said.
Suydam said the agency would negotiate with the company if it decides to buy new leases.
“We hope to develop new energy sources,” Suydam said.
Suydam said that the company, which leased the tracts in July 2009, has paid the agency a total of $477,956.06, which will go to help fund public education.
“This money belongs to the school children of Texas and goes right into the Permanent School Fund, which helps pay for the state’s share of K-12 education, keeping local property taxes lower than they would be otherwise,” Suydam said.
Baryonyx withdrew its permit applications in May for a project that would have built wind turbines as close as five miles from the Island’s coast, rising 541 feet above the water.
The company did not state the reason behind its decision to withdraw its permit applications, said Sandra Arnold, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston.
The company, whose proposed project was among seven originally tapped for possible $47 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants, was not among three companies to land the grants May 7, according to an Energy Department press release.
But Baryonyx told the Corps of Engineers that the company planned to pursue a similar project, Ian Hatton, the company’s chief executive officer, wrote in a May 14 letter to Jayson Hudson, the Corps’ regulatory project manager in Galveston.
The company’s latest proposal would include a desalination plant, Hatton wrote.
“As mentioned informally, our intention is to redefine a project which although it will have a high degree of similarity with the predecessor projects, it will incorporate technology to desalinate ocean water as well as produce electricity,” Hatton wrote.
Hatton wrote that Baryonyx planned to submit proposals for a new project this summer.
But Arnold said the company has not applied for further permits.
The company’s website continues to include plans to develop a wind farm off the Island’s coast.
Dennis Franke, a realtor whose family helped develop the Island, warned that an offshore wind farm would ruin the Island’s reputation as a world-class resort destination.
“If it’s in the vicinity, I’m extremely concerned about it,” Franke said. “As long as (the leases) expire, I’m OK.”
Environmentalists warn that turbine vibrations would drive dolphins from the area while underground wiring would radiate electromagnetic signals that would disturb sea turtle migration patterns, said Christine Rakestraw, chairwoman of the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions (and) instead of getting answers to questions it’s just raising more questions,” Rakestraw said of Baryonyx’s latest proposed project.
Jim Chapman, chairman of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club, said an offshore wind farm would threaten birds along two major migratory flyways that converge in the area.
“Since this was a project that likely would have done as much harm as good, we’re fine with the leases lapsing,” Chapman said. “That’s just a bad place to put it.”
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