The Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry sent a newsletter this week reminding recipients of Sheppard Air Force Base’s economic impact on the area, saying we shouldn’t “shoot ourselves in the foot” regarding possible wind energy developments in Clay County.
Henry Florsheim, president and CEO of the chamber, wrote in the newsletter Wednesday that “SAFB plays a vital role in our economy and in our everyday lives,” and that residents need to be “protecting what you have.” The development of wind turbines in the county could threaten Sheppard’s ability to operate in he area, he asserted.
Recently, base officials have butted heads with the developer of wind farm projects in the county, going so far as to tell attendees of a town hall meeting that if two proposed wind projects are completed, the Department of Defense might consider moving Sheppard’s flight training missions to another base.
If Sheppard left Wichita Falls, the financial impact would be massive – the base generates about $750 million in revenue annually for Wichita Falls and the surrounding area. Florsheim’s email placed that figure even higher, at about $1 billion.
“When something pops up that may threaten such a huge asset, careful consideration needs to be taken to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Florsheim wrote. “Possible development of wind farms in neighboring counties is exciting, but it could also threaten Sheppard’s operations.”
At a town hall meeting in Henrietta last week, Sheppard Col. Gregory Keeton and another high-ranking base official gave attendees a detailed rundown of how wind turbine operations could affect flight training missions and radar operations.
“In the past, there have been Navy and Air Force bases that have been impacted so much (by wind farms) that the government moved operations to a place where they’re more feasible.” Keeton said at the meeting. “Can we adjust our mission? It’s a possibility. But it’s a possibility we can’t.”
Keeton also said that “eventually the government is probably going to have to do something.”
A representative of Horn Wind PM LLC, the company developing the wind projects, has previously told the Times Record News that the Sheppard is “prematurely going on the offensive” against the projects. More than 20 Clay County landowners have signed leases with Alterra Power Corp. for turbines to be installed on their property.
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