KINGSVILLE – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn wants to end tax incentives for new wind energy projects that would be located within 30 miles of a military airfield, saying the technology may pose a threat to pilots.
Speaking at Naval Air Station Kingsville on Thursday, Cornyn said his proposed “Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act” keeps aviators safe without cutting off economic stream to military towns.
“No one is talking about banning wind turbines, but we do have to be careful when we talk about their proximity” to bases, said Cornyn, R-Texas. “We’re just trying to make sure it’s safe for our pilots, both those in the military and those who use civilian aircraft.”
Cornyn’s bill, introduced in the Senate on Sept. 28, applies only to new projects. Existing wind energy projects would be exempt.
Cornyn toured the base, which trains Navy, Marine Corps and Allied strike fighter pilots. While there, he met with the base’s commanding officer Capt. Erik Spitzer and several Training Air Wing Two aviators.
Spitzer told Cornyn and local leaders wind turbines can disrupt radar on training runs. Spinning turbine blades have been known to cause electromagnetic interference with air traffic control and other radars. This disruption, also known as shadowing, can incapacitate a pilot’s approach systems just before landing.
Navy Rear Admiral Dell Bull, Chief of Naval Air Training, said the Navy has completed a study of all the wind turbines in South Texas to see if any are encroaching on military installations. Results are expected to be made public soon, Bull said.
Tom Vinson, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said there is no national security, scientific, analytic or policy justification for Cornyn’s proposal. He described it as “entirely arbitrary and uninformed.”
“Wind farms can and do successfully coexist with bases around the country,” Vinson said. “The Pentagon has a long standing review process in place that successfully identifies any concerns with proposed wind farms, and ultimately blocks any that present a possible threat to military activities. Sen. Cornyn’s attempt to do an end run around that process is unnecessary and unjustified.
“Growing wind farms in Texas have added 25,000 jobs to the Lone Star State and resulted in over $32 billion in private investment. If this bill blocks wind farms from being built, other Texas communities will lose out on these economic benefits.”
Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid said the county has not received a permit application for a wind farm.
Texas ranks first in the nation for both installed and under-construction wind capacity, while also supporting more than 24,000 wind-related jobs. The state is home to at least 40 manufacturing facilities and numerous component suppliers, and its wind energy industry has provided nearly $33 billion in capital investment, according to the wind energy association.
The state’s wind energy infrastructure, nearly 18,000 megawatts of power, is roughly three times larger than second-place Iowa. Wind provides roughly 10 percent of the state’s energy and powers over 3.6 million homes, the association’s data shows.