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Bill would affect new wind turbines near air bases

Jimmy Horn sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee several years ago outlining the importance of a tax credit that would benefit his family owned business, Horn Wind LLC, in developing wind farms in North Texas.

That tax credit could be threatened by a bill filed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas which would make wind companies ineligible to receive the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit was well as the Investment Tax Credit should they choose to develop new projects within 30 miles of a military airfield. A dispute has been lingering between the wind energy industry and the military, with the military claiming turbine equipment and height pose a safety hazard to pilots and those in the industry claiming that simply isn’t true.

Cornyn said in a statement the bill is designed to promote safety in communities around military bases as well as provide a safe environment for pilots to train.

“After discussing the safety concerns regarding nearby wind turbines with military leaders and pilots across Texas, Iā€™m hopeful this bill can cut down on unintended radar interference in the future and ensure our pilots can continue to train in a safe and effective manner,” he said.

According to Cornyn’s legislation, which has only been filed and no action has been taken, companies will not longer be eligible for the tax credits on “any facility which is originally placed in service after the date of the enactment of the” bill.

The Federal Aviation Administration, as reported in June by the Times Record News, determined that a wind farm project near Corpus Christi, which is home to a naval air station and has a civilian airport, would not have a “significant” impact on air traffic should the project go through.

Sheppard Air Force Base, home to the 80th Flying Training Wing and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, has objected to projects in Byers and Bluegrove that Horn Wind plans to develop. Officials at the base maintain their contention that construction of the towers in Clay County would pose a danger to its pilots.

“While we support wind energy in general ā€“ and, in fact, buy wind power to help power our mission ā€“ the installation of wind farms within 25 miles of the base will have real and serious impacts on flight safety and on our ability to conduct our mission effectively and efficiently,” said Sheppard public affairs director George Woodward in a statement. “These farms will obscure our radar picture, and thus our ability to see, identify, track and safely direct military and civilian air traffic in those areas, and there is no technological solution currently available to resolve that issue.”

As the Air Force works to address a shortage of fighter pilots in the service, Woodward said the addition of wind turbines in the area would also limit the number of training days because the aircraft wouldn’t be able to fly on poor weather days.

Horn was not available for comment on Friday.