Almost 90 wind turbines planned for construction in southeast Texas won’t be hazardous to area air traffic, a federal agency ruled last week – and the decision could have important ramifications for wind projects in North Texas.
The Federal Aviation Administration analyzed the placement and potential impact of 86 wind turbines on a ranch near Corpus Christi, eventually deciding they would not cause a “significant” harm to military and civilian air traffic there, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. The ruling represents a major victory for Apex Clean Energy, the project’s developer, and a defeat for the project’s opponents.
Critics of wind farm plans there have said the turbines could affect flight training missions of nearby Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, an argument that also has been used by opponents of wind projects in Clay County.
In early April, a town hall meeting was called where Sheppard Air Force Base leaders apprised attendees of how wind projects in Clay County could negatively affect the operation of government radar systems, along with how they could marginalize flight training missions. The message was clear: if the wind projects reach fruition, Sheppard’s flight missions could be moved elsewhere.
If Sheppard’s missions were moved, it could affect the North Texas economy by $750 million or more.
Also in April, a member of Sheppard’s Military Affairs Committee and Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham testified about the city’s predicament before the Texas Senate committee overseeing the state’s military installations. For their part, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry sent an email urging recipients to be cautious about supporting wind projects.
The FAA has not yet analyzed the potential construction sites for wind turbines in the Clay County communities of Byers and Bluegrove. Jimmy Horn, developer of the projects, said he has not yet requested an analysis from the agency, though he soon will meet with FAA officials and a Department of Defense “clearinghouse” to arrive at some agreements between the parties.
Both Sheppard Air Force Base and Horn have expressed frustration in working with the other party on arriving at some compromise.
It does not appear as if the same friction exists between the Navy and Apex Clean Energy in Corpus Christi – in that project, the developer agreed to curtail wind energy operations when asked to do so by the Navy, along with paying almost $400,000 to mitigate adverse effects to military radar systems.
Horn said on Monday that the FAA’s ruling on that project is “encouraging.”
“The FAA has been doing this for most of 100 years. They know what to look for and what to approve and not approve,” he said.
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