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Turbines' effect on navigation studied

The VORTAC building is located about eight miles west of Portland. A radio beacon that airplane pilots can use to determine their proximity to Corpus Christi International Airport poses an obstacle to a $300 million wind farm under construction in San Patricio County. ...The federal agency has taken issue with the turbines' collective proximity to and potential impact on the radio navigation signal, housed about eight miles west of Portland, according to a notice of presumed hazard filed by the FAA.

Impact of wind farm planned for San Pat at issue

The VORTAC building is located about eight miles west of Portland. A radio beacon that airplane pilots can use to determine their proximity to Corpus Christi International Airport poses an obstacle to a $300 million wind farm under construction in San Patricio County.

The 50-year-old sombrero-shaped beacon known as a VORTAC is the chief reason the Federal Aviation Administration has objected to 81 of 120 proposed sites for the 109 wind turbines that are supposed to start spinning between Taft and Odem by September. Wind farm developer E.ON Climate and Renewables is working with the federal agency to find a solution, but so far, the company's investment is up in the air, said Chief Development Officer Patrick Woodson.

The federal agency has taken issue with the turbines' collective proximity to and potential impact on the radio navigation signal, housed about eight miles west of Portland, according to a notice of presumed hazard filed by the FAA.

"If we think there is serious potential for whatever the structure is to present a hazard, whether it is physical or if it would affect navigation equipment, if we think there is a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Impact of wind farm planned for San Pat at issue

The VORTAC building is located about eight miles west of Portland. A radio beacon that airplane pilots can use to determine their proximity to Corpus Christi International Airport poses an obstacle to a $300 million wind farm under construction in San Patricio County.

The 50-year-old sombrero-shaped beacon known as a VORTAC is the chief reason the Federal Aviation Administration has objected to 81 of 120 proposed sites for the 109 wind turbines that are supposed to start spinning between Taft and Odem by September. Wind farm developer E.ON Climate and Renewables is working with the federal agency to find a solution, but so far, the company's investment is up in the air, said Chief Development Officer Patrick Woodson.

The federal agency has taken issue with the turbines' collective proximity to and potential impact on the radio navigation signal, housed about eight miles west of Portland, according to a notice of presumed hazard filed by the FAA.

"If we think there is serious potential for whatever the structure is to present a hazard, whether it is physical or if it would affect navigation equipment, if we think there is a potential problem, then we issue a notice of presumed hazard," said Laura Brown, a Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman for the FAA. "It does not mean there is a hazard. It triggers the review process."

Site work for the wind farm already under way, including roads and foundations, will continue through February, according to Woodson. The turbines, which already have started arriving at the Port of Corpus Christi, were scheduled to be moved on site and erected starting in March.

If the FAA makes a final determination that the turbines, which are set to be built on 15,000 acres of leased farmland, are an air navigation hazard, it likely would mean cancellation of the project, according to E.ON. A final decision likely would come in 2009.

Among the issues for the FAA to consider: Some government reports suggest that the VORTAC will be replaced by a global positioning system and other technologies; the FAA's lease of the site has expired and the landowner wants a new tenant; officials with Corpus Christi International Airport say they're willing to discuss alternatives; local officials are united in making the wind project the priority over the VORTAC; and they have enlisted U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Hutchison's spokesman Matt Mackowiak confirmed that the senator has contacted the FAA.

County officials, representatives from E.ON and the FAA along with Hutchison held a conference call Monday afternoon, so the county and E.ON could push for a decision before the end of January.

"If there are issues we want something to work with to mitigate the concerns," San Patricio County Judge Terry Simpson said Monday.

Potential solutions to the issue include moving the VORTAC, technology that already gets limited use locally for approaches to runway 17, which is not the primary runway at the Corpus Christi airport.

"We could work and we are working with the FAA to do some mitigation," said Fred Segundo, the director of aviation at the Corpus Christi International Airport. "There could be some relocation of equipment and shielding on wind turbines."

In the meantime, as part of the aviation administration's review process, the agency is seeking public comment on the project through Jan. 7, before making a final determination.

One comment will come from Kelli Bergoon's attorney.

Bergoon owns the land near Portland where the VORTAC is located and the federal agency's five-year lease ran out in September 2007, her attorney Elliott Mitchell said.

She wants the VORTAC off her property, but likely will have to let the agency stay if it wants to because it's a governmental entity, Mitchell said.

Two of E.ON's turbines would mean a much greater financial return for Bergoon than the federal agency's current offer to renew its lease, Mitchell said.

"The value of one wind turbine is certainly worth more than $150,000," Mitchell said. "How much is it going to cost to move that beacon? It's a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of the project for landowners. We will make a public comment on the project. The most recent offer from the FAA is $4,000. Somebody's got their head in the sand."

Eighty landowners have 30-year leases with E.ON that will bring in an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 a year for each turbine sited on an individual's property, according to Woodson.

When developers started making the rounds two years ago looking for places to plant the forest of 398-foot-tall windmills, farmers, generally known as a cautious lot, were intrigued.

The sales pitch was tempting -- 10 times the money they could make leasing their land for farming -- in exchange for wind, an environmentally friendly cash crop invulnerable to bugs, worms, drought and tropical downpours.

"After looking at them, it was, like, do I want to do this on my land?" said Odem farmer Stanley Webb, who contracted to have eight of the turbines. "I can't say I didn't think about it. But it's renewable energy in a time when we have to find renewable energy and I am getting paid at the same time. The land is real pretty without them, but I would not gripe if someone put a productive oil well on my property either."

It will mean a $300 million positive jolt to the San Patricio County tax base. And Sinton, Odem and Taft ISDs stand to divvy up $19.5 million in fresh revenue over the next 20 years, Woodson said. Their shares will depend on how many turbines are built in each taxing jurisdiction.

Before signing up, Webb and another farmer traveled to West Texas to see and hear existing wind turbines. They came back with a favorable report.

"I really don't have a problem with the way they look," said Webb, who expects eight of the turbines to be built on his land. "We parked right underneath one. It was going round and round and I could not hear it. It was a small whoosh and you had to roll the window down to hear it."

Though Webb and other landowners are bound by confidentiality agreements that keep them from revealing the terms of their deals, based on projected annual figures provided by Woodson, Bergoon would rake in at least $24,000 a year for two turbines on her property and Webb would take in $86,000.

By comparison, landowners in San Patricio County make about $100 an acre annually leasing land for farming. To reap the $10,000 to $12,000 a single turbine brings in, landowners would have to tie up at least 100 acres, according to figures from several farmers.

"It sure supplements farming and it's a steady income," Webb said. "Where farming is getting to where we might or might not make a crop based on how the weather goes, it's a big boon to our community."

PUBLIC COMMENT

The Federal Aviation Administration is accepting public comment until Jan. 7 about the VORTAC beacon in San Patricio County. Comments must be relevant to the effect the structure would have on aviation, must provide sufficient detail to permit a clear understanding and should refer to Aeronautical Study No. 2008-WTW-2049-OE.

Comments may be submitted to:

  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Air Traffic Airspace Branch,
  • ASW-520
  • 2601 Meacham Blvd.
  • Fort Worth, TX 76137-0520
  • Contact Jaime Powell at 886-3716 or powellj@caller.com

 


Source: http://www.caller.com/news/...

DEC 28 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18414-turbines-effect-on-navigation-studied
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