Work on a wind farm long caught in controversy has launched under a different developer.
The Chapman Ranch property designated for wind farm construction – a project that was recently conveyed to a new energy company— was a construction site Wednesday.
The project was acquired Sept. 9, and work on the wind farm began Sept. 12, wrote Michael Barnes, a spokesman for Enbridge, in an email to the Caller-Times.
The previous developer was Apex Clean Energy, which had plans to construct 86 wind turbines on 27 square miles of private property outside city limits.
Enbridge will be following those plans, Barnes wrote.
Apex, meanwhile, will now “(manage) construction of the project and will continue on as asset managers of the project once it is operational,” wrote Dahvi Wilson, Apex spokeswoman, in an email to the Caller-Times.
The development of the wind farm has sparked significant debate in the community. Among the most contentious points has been disagreement on whether its construction would interfere with the Navy’s radar and in turn, whether that would jeopardize the Navy’s pilot flight training.
Fears that the wind farm would be detrimental to Navy operations led the City Council in 2014 to annex the original site of the project, 16 square miles of Chapman Ranch property, in an attempt to thwart construction. Developers later moved the project out of the newly annexed area.
The Federal Aviation Administration ruled earlier this year that locations of the planned turbines were not considered hazards. There is also a memorandum of agreement in place with the Navy, which includes mitigation provisions.
“The original project developer, Apex, secured all required permissions from the U.S. Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as other permits needed for construction and operation of the Chapman Ranch Wind Farm,” Barnes wrote in an email to the Caller-Times. “We intend to be good neighbors with the military, landowners, the county and city.”
There have been questions raised by local and national leaders, meanwhile, about the cumulative effects of multiple wind farms on radar, and whether that can be mitigated.
Mayor Nelda Martinez said Wednesday she continues to have the same concerns about the wind farm’s impact on the Navy’s radar, noting that a study analyzing the cumulative effects is pending.
Critics of the annexation have also argued that the move amounted to sprawl, burdening taxpayers with funding infrastructure improvements to the area as infrastructure in older areas of the city continue to deteriorate.
By state law, municipalities must extend utility services to annexed areas. The Chapman Ranch annexation would require $14 million in sewer and water lines.
The council has discussed in recent weeks what the city’s obligation is in terms of providing utilities and in what timeframe, and when such infrastructure should be funded.
The council will hold off on any decisions related to the annexed area until the wind farm study has concluded, Martinez said.
Once available, “we’ll be in a more informed position on how to move forward,” she said.
Enbridge has two other wind farms in Texas, Barnes wrote – one in North Texas and the other in Raymondville.
The Chapman Ranch project represents a $355 million investment, Barnes wrote.
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