State Sen. Donna Campbell wants to end subsidies for turbines built near military facilities. Facilities too valuable for operations to be hindered, Campbell argues. Wind industry says federal permitting process already “robust.”
Suggesting that wind turbines can hinder military readiness, a Texas lawmaker has proposed barring wind farms near some military installations.
The Mission Preparedness Protection Act, filed by State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would stop the erection of wind turbines within 30 nautical miles of the boundaries of Texas military aviation facilities by prohibiting subsidies for such wind farms.
The proposal gets at a long-running struggle over renewable energy, about the extent to which the wind and solar industry deserve versions of subsidies won by other, more conventional industries.
In a statement, Campbell argued the military installations are too valuable to the state’s economy to be hindered by the wind farms.
“Our military installations provide a $135 billion boost to the economy and are responsible for employing over 800,000 Texans directly and indirectly,” Campbell said in a news release. “Losing military missions due to wind farms negatively affects the long-term viability of these bases, and we cannot allow that to happen.”
Citing testimony at a Senate committee meeting in the spring that laid out the danger wind farms pose to pilots taking off and landing, she called turbines the “leading threat to mission readiness” at Sheppard Air Force Base outside Wichita Falls and Naval Air Station Kingsville.
“I do feel like one day we’re going to wake up surrounded by wind farms in South Texas significantly impacting the mission in a negative way,” Capt. Christopher Misner, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Kingsville, told the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee.
Campbell, who chairs the committee, said she’s filing the bill “to ensure our military installations remain mission capable.”
Jeff Clark, executive director of the Austin-based Wind Coalition, said there is “already a robust process” for vetting the siting of wind turbines near military installations.
He said that since Texas lawmakers hosted hearings on the matter this year, the U.S. Department of Defense has won greater power to stop the construction of the wind farms if the military thinks they are a problem. And he said the state grid operator now requires wind developers to notify the military of their siting proposals before the grid operator studies whether they can be connected to the grid.
Texas leads the country in wind generation; Clark said roughly a quarter of wind turbines in the state would not have been able to be constructed if Campbell’s law had been on the books.
“Rather than applying arbitrary distances, what matters is a technical assessment by the military if a project is compatible or incompatible” with base operations, Clark said.