Sheppard Air Force Base is “prematurely going on the offensive” in its campaign to alert the public to the consequences of possible wind turbine projects in Clay County, the developer of the projects said Monday.
“They’re just pre-emptively attacking us. … They’re on a very big PR campaign right now,” said Jimmy Horn, owner of Horn Wind PM LLC. Horn currently is developing two future wind farm projects in Clay County for owner Alterra Power Corp., a Canadian alternative energy company.
Vocal opponents to the wind farm plans have come forward in past months, but last week another adversary emerged: Sheppard Air Force Base. At a town hall meeting Thursday, two high-ranking base officials told attendees that developments could interfere with their radar systems and could also limit the number of days pilots are able to train.
Col. Gregory Keeton said the installation of wind farms in Clay County – which is directly east of Wichita County – could force the Department of Defense to move the base’s pilot training programs to another Air Force base.
Turbines within a 25-mile radius of Sheppard would be especially detrimental to the base’s “mission,” Keeton said. Wichita Falls and the surrounding area stand to lose $750 million annually if Sheppard’s missions are moved elsewhere.
Horn, the developer, said he has spoken by phone with base officials and also has given a presentation on the developments to the Clay County Commissioners Court. That meeting was also attended by at least one Sheppard representative, Horn said.
“We were trying to be upfront and work with them,” Horn said. “We didn’t go into big detail – they didn’t have enough info to make a determination.”
Currently Horn and Alterra are waiting on an OK from the Federal Aviation Administration before going ahead with any work, he said. Also, turbine developers generally rely on tax abatements to make installation affordable. An abatement would have to be voted on and passed by the county’s Commissioners Court.
“I’m from Windthorst, and I don’t want to close the base down. I don’t think it will close down,” Horn said. “We’re not trying to kill the Air Force base.”