U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold has authored a bill aimed at restricting wind turbines from operating too closely to military airfields.
H.R. 403 was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Tuesday.
It's one of two the Corpus Christi Republican is planning to promote this Congress related to wind farms. The second “has more to do with tax credits,” Farenthold spokeswoman Elizabeth Peace said. That legislation, which is planned to be introduced after next week’s inauguration, will mirror a bill U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced last year and be co-sponsored, Peace added.
Neither bill will affect the Chapman Ranch wind farm, which has already been approved. They could, however, impact expansions or alterations to the project, Peace said.
The Navy completed a study in the fall that looked at whether wind turbines in South Texas were encroaching on military installations. It concluded wind farm effects on radar can be mitigated but not eliminated. That fueled the decisions to file multiple bills on the issue, according to Farenthold’s office.
“Wind turbines can create unnecessary dangerous flying environments for our military aviators,” Farenthold said. “Military members need to focus on training, not worry about radar not picking up other planes.”
Tom Vinson, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, decried Farenthold's bill, along with other similar legislation recently introduced in Washington as arbitrary and unnecessary.
“To simply draw a circle around a base and pretend you’re protecting homeland security is a falsehood.” Vinson said in an interview Friday with the Caller-Times.
In September, Cornyn introduced the “Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act,” which calls for an end to tax incentives for new wind energy projects within 30 miles of a military airfield.
And in November, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins introduced legislation aimed at preventing windmills from being subsidized with renewable energy tax credits if they are within 40 miles of a U.S. military facility. The bill by Collins, a Republican from western New York, might have effects on a proposed 70-turbine wind farm near Niagara Falls.
Texas ranks first in the nation for both installed and under-construction wind capacity, while also supporting more than 24,000 wind-related jobs. The state is home to at least 40 manufacturing facilities and numerous component suppliers, and its wind energy industry has provided nearly $33 billion in capital investment, according to the wind energy association.
The state’s wind energy infrastructure, nearly 18,000 megawatts of power, is roughly three times larger than second-place Iowa. Wind provides roughly 10 percent of the state’s energy and powers over 3.6 million homes, the association’s data shows.