Library filed under Impact on Landscape from Texas
Hill Country residents have raised multiple concerns about new transmissions lines that will be installed to deliver wind energy across Texas. In July, the Public Utilities Commission approved a plan called "Scenario 2" that maps out the general route companies will follow when installing transmission lines. The lines will carry energy from wind farms in West Texas to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Ft. Worth. ...Final proposals from interested companies must be submitted by Sept. 12. The PUC will make their final selections in January 2009.
About 150 landowners and concerned residents met in Harper Thursday to discuss possible construction of a private electric transmission line through Gillespie County. "We basically wanted to get together and pool our information," Martha Stevens, who helped organize the meeting, said. "We live in an awfully pretty part of Texas, and there are important questions we need to ask." Landowners are concerned, Ms. Stevens said, that construction of power lines will diminish property values and harm the Hill Country's appeal to tourists.
Kerr County may soon play a part in transmitting wind energy from West Texas and the Panhandle to other parts of the state. But what it will take to transport the "green" energy may have some Hill Country residents seeing red. Four companies have shown interest in building a large, double circuit 345-kilovolt transmission line for the Public Utility Commission of Texas project. ... According to Robert Weatherford, president of Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment Inc., another transmission line might be in the works.
For now, wind power's triumphant march in the U.S. can count on another legal smackdown of "NIMBYism," after a Texas appeals court yesterday dismissed a suit by landowners upset with a big wind farm built by FPL Energy. Landowners decried the turbines' noise and their spoiled sunsets-which the court agreed was a pity-but the appeals court couldn't find grounds to rule against the power company. ...Congress is meant to reconvene next month for yet another attempt at renewing clean-energy tax credits. But does it have any recipe to make clean energy more appealing to the folks who hate it?
Before the 2006 trial, the judge wouldn't let plaintiffs argue that the towering turbines were a nuisance based on their blinking lights or how they looked. After the two-week trial in which noise levels and land values were discussed, jurors ruled in favor of FPL Energy. In a ruling issued Thursday, the 11th Court of Appeals said the trial judge did not err because Texas law "does not provide a nuisance action for aesthetical impact." But the appeals court seemed sympathetic to landowners.
Folks in several nearby towns, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas, are fighting to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to them. ...They say the companies are swooping in -- even into areas that aren't as windy -- because federal tax credits for wind developers expire at year's end unless Congress extends the subsidy. Opponents also are holding meetings and erecting yard signs protesting turbines, disputing that wind energy works at all. ...They say that unreliability isn't worth sacrificing their scenic vistas and high property values.
It is clear the majority of commissioners court is in favor of allowing the wind farm to go up in northern Young County. From a government perspective, the choice is easy. By agreeing to waive some of the property tax for 10 years, commissioners will see the income to the county rise by between $200,000 and $400,000 each year. ...While wind farms are often beneficial to property owners who lease their land, they are frequently hated by other land owners. The bottom line is putting 40 or 50 wind generators up in Young County will drastically change the scenic view many people have become accustomed to. If you want an example of what you may see, just drive down Highway 16 South toward Possum Kingdom Lake and look at the windmills sitting south of Bryson.
Following a July 17 selection by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Gillespie County will be one of many counties in the state that will see new power lines in the next four to five years that will carry electricity from wind farms in West Texas and the Panhandle regions to the more metropolitan areas in Central and East Texas.
A regional conservation group is pointing out where birds and wind farms might not mix. A Playa Lakes Joint Venture mapping project shows the few remaining acres of habitat for the lesser prairie chicken and where playa lakes can draw large numbers of migrating birds. "There has been a lot of interest from the wind industry, local and state conservation groups and state agencies," said Megan McLachlan, a geographic-information system analyst for the group. "We've gotten a lot of phone calls the last couple of months asking us to share the data. There's a lot of people working on the issue."
A federal court judge said Tuesday he needs time to sort through a complicated legal challenge brought by the King Ranch and several environmental groups that want to stop a massive wind farm near the South Texas Gulf Coast. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel will have to decide if a mid-1990s federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires the state to conduct public hearings before a wind farm can be approved - if it affects private property and if the environmental groups have a right to sue. ...Lawyers for the wind farm developers said wind farms are not like electric utilities, which are subject to regulation.
Nearly all of some 175 landowners raised their hands during a meeting here Friday when a West Texas lawmaker asked how many wanted legislators to oppose billionaire T. Boone Pickens' efforts to obtain rights of way for water pipeline and electricity transmission lines. The lines would also pass through parts of Archer, Hardeman, Jack, Wichita and Wilbarger counties. A similar meeting has been scheduled Thursday in Holliday. One landowner shouted "Do it," during the show of hands urging lawmakers fight Pickens' attempts to obtain rights of way to build the world's largest wind farm and to ship water from the Panhandle to thirsty areas downstate. No one - not even Pickens' representatives - raised their hands when state Sen. Bob Duncan asked who wanted lawmakers to support the projects.
Two wind farms, part of a $2 billion project, have been proposed near Hebbronville, just east of Laredo. Corpus Christi-based American Shoreline and its partner, San Diego, Calif.-based Eviva Spinnaker, plan to develop the 800-megawatt wind project. It calls for 400 turbines about 350 feet tall spread out over 35,000 acres in Jim Hogg, Webb and Zapata counties. The electricity that would be generated from the two wind farms would power about 220,000 homes. The project recently was announced and has not received vocal opposition. But if vocal opposition toward two Kenedy County wind projects is any indication, there soon will be. Kenedy County is about 100 miles south of Corpus Christi.
Attorney Jim Blackburn of the Coastal Habitat Alliance presents a comprehensive summary of the development and impacts of the Kenedy County wind farms in Texas.
If anyone wants to see what these windmills can do to ruin a beautiful view, try taking a quick trip up IH-20 and Highway 84 between Sweetwater and Snyder. That used to be the highlight of my drive from Dallas to Lubbock, to see the beautiful ridges and hills off to the southwest. It has now been ruined with hundreds of massive windmills. ...I would hate to see it ruined because a few folks see a way to make a little money for a few years.
Florida Power & Light Co. -- with 1,600 wind turbines the largest wind-power generator in Texas -- is considering putting power transmission lines through the heart of the prairie to bring environmentally friendly wind-generated power to Fort Worth and Dallas. Doing so would supply 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity -- enough to power 500,000 homes -- reducing the amount of electricity needed from coal-fired plants and thus cutting emissions that contribute to ozone pollution and global warming. The possibility of 130-foot-high transmission lines cutting through the prairie, however, complicates local efforts to purchase and preserve it. The state's General Land Office, which bought the property as an investment for $21 million in 2005 and is considering whether to sell it to a private developer, has given local leaders time to raise the money to purchase the property.
Four speakers took turns explaining adverse consequences of life with wind farms Tuesday at a Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon that focused on the downside of turbines. ...Burns said through six generations, his family has endured drought, declining economic farm conditions and other adversities, but they've always known that "if you work hard, you can tough it out. The land restores you. The land's beauty is its primary value, but all of the property in Brown County is being threatened. Someone else will make the decisions about our land, and it can never be reversed if (the decisions) are wrong." Brown County resident Dr. John Dunn said county government can't prevent wind turbines from being placed on property where owners allow it, but it can choose not to allow tax abatements to encourage their placement.
Wind energy has become a hot-button issue in Brown County since the Roadrunner Windfarm was proposed last year by Renewable Energy Systems Inc. The proposed $450 million project will involve Brown, Comanche and Mills counties and include 150 turbines. Only 15-20 are expected to be located in southeast Brown County, and construction could begin in 2009. Comanche and Mills counties have approved tax abatement agreements with RES, but Brown County commissioners have yet to approve the request. ... Burns said the taxpayers will bear the burden of the turbines if the industry dries up and blows away. "The legions of losers are the taxpayers," Burns continued. "This is the most important decision Brown County will ever make. Let's tell Germany and England: Don't mess with Brown County."
Mr. Robert L. Cook, a wildlife biologist and former Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) provided this testimony before the Brown County Commissioners Court. Mr. Cook supports his recommendation that a wind farm tax abatement not be granted on wind projects in the county.