SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – A developer that planned Texas’ first offshore wind farm has pulled its project, a South Padre Island official said.
Austin-based Baryonyx Corp.’s two state leases – off of South Padre Island – have expired and the company has not re-applied for a new permit three months after it pulled its permit applications for a wind farm it planned to build about five miles offshore. The wind turbines would have risen 541 feet above the water, state and federal officials said.
“I believe they’ve gone away,” Sungman Kim, the Island’s director of development services, said. “They were interested but they’re not anymore. There were environmental issues. They didn’t think it was feasible here.”
The company did not respond to telephone calls this past week.
Environmentalists who opposed the wind farm proposal call the expiration of the leases “good news,” but they will remain vigilant.
Baryonyx’s two offshore leases expired July 20, Texas General Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam said.
Sandra Arnold, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, said from the Galveston office that the company has not applied to the agency.
Baryonyx, whose proposed project was among seven originally tapped for possible $47 million U.S. Department of Energy grants, was not among three companies to land the grants on May 7, according to an Energy Department press release.
But Baryonyx told the Corps of Engineers that it planned to pursue a similar project that would include a desalination plant, Ian Hatton, the company’s chief executive officer, wrote in a May 14 letter to Jayson Hudson, the Corps’ regulatory project manager in Galveston.
“I anticipate that it will be two or three months before we are ready to re-submit the proposal,” Hatton wrote in the letter.
Environmentalists warned that turbine vibrations would drive dolphins from the area while underground wiring would radiate electromagnetic signals that would disturb sea turtle migration patterns, Christine Rakestraw, chairwoman of the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, said.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club’s chairman Jim Chapman warned an offshore wind farm would threaten birds along two major migratory flyways that converge in the area.
But environmentalists were not ready to declare victory in the battle against the proposed wind farm.
“That is better news than anything else,” Rakestraw said of Kim’s comments. “That’s really made my day. But we have to stay on top of it because it could change.”
Dennis Franke, a realtor whose family helped develop the Island, warned that an offshore wind farm would spoil the Island’s reputation as a world-class resort.
Baryonyx’s leases of almost 19,800 acres about five miles offshore and another 21,600 acres a few miles farther north expired because the company did not make its annual payments of $2.08 per acre, or more than $86,000, Suydam said.
He said the company made its last payment of more than $400,000 on Dec. 23, 2013.
The company leased the tracts in July 2009 and paid the state a total of $478,000, which went to fund public education, Suydam said.
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