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Turbines have Mineral residents seeing red

MINERAL – Linda Cruickshanks had little good to say about the proposed wind farm in Mineral as she spoke to Bee County commissioners at their July 23 meeting.

“We all have land in Mineral so I am concerned about this wind project,” she said, standing with her husband and parents last week. “About three weeks ago we knew nothing about wind farms. But now we have done a lot of research.”

The farm in question is proposed by Lincoln Clean Energy and is the most northern of such in coastal areas under consideration by wind power companies.

“One of the things we have to understand is that in Texas, there are no regulations for wind farms,” she said.

“The lease is the law.

“It is like prospecting. You can go stake your claim and set up your project.”

In this case, the company is looking to lease 20,000 acres, said Commissioner Dennis DeWitt during a previous interview.

DeWitt said that he has contacted the offices of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Sen. Judith Zaffirini and State Rep. J.M. Lozano expressing his concerns.

“I spoke with Matt Lamon in Rep. Lozano’s office, and we will be having some meetings with wind companies to discuss your concerns,” responded Krista Kyle, deputy chief of staff with Zaffirini’s office.

DeWitt, who owns property along with his brother within the boundaries of the 22,000-acre footprint of the farm, said that they are not signing a lease.

“We are not going to do it,” he said this week. “We looked at it carefully.

“We talked about it. There was universal agreement this was not a good thing.

“We did not want to defile it with these wind turbines.”

Cruickshanks said that she and others have reviewed the leases provided to them during a recent meeting with the company.

While they had concerns, the most notable was that the company could bulldoze the old oaks of the area if these interfered with wind patterns.

“There is nothing in the lease to prevent them from doing this,” she said. “The contract will give the company the right to bulldoze as much as they want.”

Other companies are looking at Tynan and Mathis for a wind farm and another for a farm in Refugio County – which have a far flatter terrain.

The Refugio farm is expected to span two counties with 7,600 acres in Bee and 18,000 in Refugio County.

Developers of this new wind farm, dubbed Blackjack Creek Wind Farm, is E.On Climate and Renewables. Those leases are good for 36 years with operations beginning in 2022.

Local entities, including the county, school districts and college board, have approved tax abatements for a wind farm’s construction in the Tynan area.

Avangrid Renewables is constructing that one which will include 24 wind turbines in Bee County. Additional turbines will be installed in San Patricio County, where agreements have also been reached with its tax entities.

“The area in Mineral and Pawnee is very different than the other areas we visited with wind farms,” she said. “The wind farms along the coast have no brush and trees and are situated on fairly flat land.”

Then, she added, there is the aesthetics of the 499-foot turbines and the blinking red lights that warn off planes.

“The lights blinked simultaneously with all other turbines in the area,” she said of one farm she visited. “We believe the flashing red lights will have a strong negative impact most people really cannot imagine yet.”

Then there is the question of what would be done when the life of the turbines is reached.

“Everything depends on the lease,” she said. “The UK is having a problem with subsidiaries that declare bankruptcy rather than remove equipment that has little salvage value,” she said.

“If they don’t get to posting the bonds or fulfill the provision of removal in the lease, our grandkids have the right to take everything down themselves and then sue them.”

DeWitt, in his letter to state and federal representatives wrote, “…Parent companies form an LLC for the local project; when decommissioning occurs, the LLC has no money and essentially disappears without liability…”

There is precedent to both their concerns. In Hawaii and California, wind farms were initially abandoned, left to rust because parts for the turbines were no longer available.

Cruickshanks’ concerns were similar as she looks into three decades into their future when the money is gone from the leases and the turbines no longer function in Mineral.

“The oil and gas industry has quite a checkered history with selling wells to smaller under-financed operators leaving uncapped wells,” she said. “In 1987, the Railroad Commission identified more than 8,800 wells that were known or presumed to be unplugged.

“Why should we expect the U.S. wind business will develop any different?”