The findings of a Virginia consulting company will be a deciding factor in whether plans for two proposed wind energy projects move forward in Clay County.
Within the month, Capitol Airspace Group is expected to conclude its analysis of potential hazards posed by wind projects in Bluegrove and Byers. The review — referred to as an "obstructional analysis" in aeronautical circles — examines whether construction plans will significantly interfere with civilian or military aircraft operation.
Paul Rapp, a vice president of Canadian alternative energy company Alterra Power Corp., said on Tuesday that the consultant's findings could decide whether wind energy development in the rural county continues.
Alterra contracted with Capitol Airspace Group after Sheppard Air Force Base raised concerns that the proposed wind developments could interfere with base radar operations and cause student pilots to miss training days. Sheppard officials previously said at a town hall meeting in Henrietta that turbine construction could bring about the transfer of base flight missions to another military installation.
"We want to understand the concerns the base has raised. If we find there is negative impact that can't be mitigated, we will not proceed," Rapp said.
Capitol Airspace Group lists 10 experts on its staff, led by a former Army air traffic controller. A former Lockheed Martin systems engineer and an Air Force flight instructor round out the firm's employees.
The consultants are on Alterra's payroll, but Rapp said he expects to receive from the group an impartial assessment of the wind projects' potential hazards.
"They are technical people, not advocates," he said. "They are quite factual."
Alterra and their developer, Horn Wind PM LLC, also are entering into informal talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and a Department of Defense agency overseeing obstructional analyses for the military. No construction plans have been sent by Horn Wind or Alterra to the FAA, which would trigger a formal analysis of potential hazards.
The FAA gave its approval of an 86-turbine project near Corpus Christi last week, despite proximity of the proposed project to a Navy installation.