WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Renewable energy developer, Innergex, will not be building wind farms near Sheppard Air Force Base after nearly two years of consideration.
It doesn't mean the process is over, but for now, Sheppard can rest assured knowing no training missions will be lost to those turbines.
"We're really grateful for the decision Innergex made to kind of back away from their plans to build wind farms near Byers and Bluegrove for the time being," Chief of Public Affairs at SAFB, George Woodward said.
Low-level training flights are one of the most important parts of the Sheppard Air Force Base mission.
That's why government, community, and base leaders worked so hard to educate wind farm developers on the negative impact to those low-level flights wind farms within 25 miles of the base can have.
"There was a lot of discussion between the Air Force and the developer having to do with radar analysis and looking at how this would impact our mission," Woodward said.
If the project moved forward, it would have meant safety issues to civilian and military flights in and out of the base and would have reduced the number of training flying days each year.
"If we can just sit down early in the process and say if we move these wind farms a mile to the west or to the east, we can live with that and you can live with that," Woodward said.
Woodward added it continues to be an ongoing issue in Texas and Oklahoma, the two state's the base trains in because they are the two states with the largest wind farm development efforts.
In fact, Sheppard Air Force Base has already lost three low-level training routes in Oklahoma due to wind turbines.
But he said it could be much worse if it weren't for community partners like the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee and their President Glenn Barham.
"My first reaction when I saw the email was hey we won that fight," Barham said. "Our focus was on educating the legislature as to the problems associated with wind farm developments in military training routes, as well as around military airfields," Barham said.
He said despite the win, they must continue to educate.
"We can't have Sheppard closing," Barham said. "It's not only vital to our local economy but the state economy as well. We'll work to continue our education processes regards to Sheppard Air Force Base, and will continue to do that mission."
Texas State Representative James Frank released the following statement to Newschannel 6 regarding what could be done at the next legislative session to continue to try to further protect military installations from wind farms:
"Sheppard Air Force Base is an integral part of our community and our region's economy. We will continue to have conversations with base officials to make sure that they are able to do the vitally important work of training the next generation of men and women who defend our nation. At the same time, we will work hard to ensure that private property rights are respected.
It's a complex issue, which is why it is so important to talk with all stakeholders. We have met and will continue to meet during the interim with representatives from the base as well as wind companies to see what, if any, additional legislative steps need to be taken."
In 2016 the Texas legislature voted not to give state tax abatements for wind farm developers that build within a 25-mile radius of a base.