Sheppard Air Force Base concerns notwithstanding, Horn Wind LLC will push forward with two wind energy projects in Clay County.
The Times Record News exclusively learned Thursday that development plans in the communities of Bluegrove and Byers will be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for its approval. From there, it’s expected that project proponents, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies will hash out a workable agreement for the installation of turbines in the rural North Texas town.
The decision was made after a study was conducted on the possible effects of private development near Sheppard Air Force Base, said Jimmy Horn, owner of Horn Wind LLC. This week, Virginia-based Capitol Airspace Group determined that wind farms in Clay County would have minimal impact on Sheppard operations, save possible interference with one flight training route.
“It shouldn’t be a huge issue to solve,” Horn said.
Alterra Power Corp., the owners of the projects, contracted with Capitol Airspace Group after Sheppard officials raised concerns that the proposed developments could interfere with base radar operations and cause student pilots to miss training days. Base officials previously said at a town hall meeting in Henrietta that turbine construction could bring about the transfer of base flight missions to another military installation.
A Sheppard spokeswoman had not given a comment for this story by early Thursday afternoon.
The developments are expected to cost $450 million and span more than 11,000 acres. Due to possible interference with one military flight training route, some proposed turbine locations might be changed, Horn said.
It’s also possible that developers could pay Sheppard to upgrade its radar infrastructure, mitigating the issue of wind turbines creating a “dead space” on radar screens, which can cause aircraft to disappear from the view of traffic controllers.
Once a formal project review is submitted to the FAA, the Department of Defense’s siting clearinghouse is expected to get involved in negotiations between the military and private industry. In more than 10,000 cases, only one project has been cancelled due to military objections.
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