Coastal Update: The Kenedy wind farms

Attorney Jim Blackburn of the Coastal Habitat Alliance presents a comprehensive summary of the development and impacts of the Kenedy County wind farms in Texas.

This is a special edition of my coastal update that is written regarding the Kenedy County wind farms.  The Coastal Habitat Alliance is a group that was formed to bring together environmental and private sector interests to act to protect our coast.  The Coastal Habitat Alliance is working to identify some agency with jurisdiction over these environmentally damaging wind farms.  We are in federal court over the absolute absence of the Texas Coastal Management Program and we hope to have the court order the construction stopped pending some type of coastal management review.  In the meantime, we have identified two major environmental issues and we are trying to find a regulatory agency with jurisdiction other than the relatively worthless Texas Coastal Management Program.  Here is a summary of the current situation.

The Wind Farms

Two large wind farm projects are in the early stages of construction in Kenedy County - one by Babcock and Brown on the Kenedy Foundation lands and one by PPM Energy on the Kenedy Trust lands.  According to filings with the Federal Aviation Administration, 291 turbine locations are currently identified between the two projects (these are registered as air navigation hazards because they are about 400 feet high).  The turbines are arranged in rows that extend from the southwest to the northeast in order to intercept the prevailing wind that comes from the southeast.  Within the rows, the turbines are about three or four football fields apart (roughly 300 to 400 yards).  The rows themselves are about a mile and a half apart because of airflow issues. 

Based on these filings, the current wind farm plans (which represent about 700 MW of power production) will occur in an area of about 35,000 acres.  If the full 1200 MW reserved with the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for Kenedy County is built, the wind farms will cover about 60,000 acres.  Within the 35,000 acre site, between 50 to 150 miles of industrial-grade road will be constructed, depending upon whether the roads directly connect the turbine locations or whether the roads will be constructed around surface wetlands as has been promised by the wind developers to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
 The Environmental Impact Issues

There are two very serious environmental impact issues associated with the two Kenedy County wind farm proposals.  The construction of these wind farms is occurring within a unique sand sheet wetlands system that is maintained by rainwater moving through the shallow subsurface through a huge land area.  This regional water flow also provides freshwater to the hypersaline Laguna Madre.  Our analysis indicates that construction of these wind farms would interfere with this regional water movement, leading to catastrophic impacts to the wetlands biology and potentially to the Laguna Madre.  There are also major bird-related issues associated with the construction of these wind farms at this location.  This is a major migratory corridor, with literally millions of birds moving through this area during spring migration as well as in the fall.  There is also extensive local use of the wetlands by resident wading birds, particularly during the winter when ducks like the redheads feed and rest throughout this area.  According to our bird strike experts, the development of this site could lead to the worst avian impact disaster in the history of North American wind energy. 

Attorney Blackburn's full summary update can be downloaded by clicking on the below link. It includes explanations with important links on these topics:

1) Impact to the Laguna Madre
2) Impact to Birds and Threatened and Endangered Species
3) No Regulation
4) Federal Court Litigation Update
5) Call to Action


Blackburn Coastal Update

Download file (115 KB) pdf

MAR 31 2008
back to top