Articles filed under Impact on People from Texas
Wind farms are becoming an increasingly popular way to generate green energy, but little is known about the ecological and socioeconomic effects of the towering windmills that have begun to dot parts of the landscape. What impact do the tall structures have on the birds and bats in the area? How do the wind farms affect local economies and governmental policy? And what do residents living in communities that are home to the farms think? Two Texas A&M University researchers have been tapped to join a study that is trying to determine those answers.
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.
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."
The wind blowing through Gillespie County won't be used to generate power anytime soon, that is if Robert Weatherford has his way. Weatherford is president of Save Our Scenic Hill Country, a group committed to keeping wind farms out of the Texas Hill Country. "We think that it would significantly impact the scenic beauty of this area," Weatherford said. One of the areas being considered by energy companies for wind farming was the hills north of Fredericksburg, near Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Now local governments are making their opposition to the giant wind turbines known.
NRG Energy -- the second energy company to have shown interest over the past year in developing a wind generation operation in Gillespie County -- has now decided to discontinue its efforts here. “While we have not yet made any decisions on where to locate additional wind farms, the site we were exploring in Gillespie County is no longer being considered,” David B. Knox, communications manager for NRG in Houston, told the Standard-Radio Post yesterday afternoon in a phone interview. Knox added that the company’s initial review of environmental and economic data showed more promising sites for locating an energy-efficient wind farm elsewhere in the state. ...Word of NRG’s decision initially came Nov. 30 in a phone conversation between an NRG officer and District 24 State Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay who said the developer stated that there is some question about there being enough wind capacity in Gillespie County to make a wind generating facility here feasible. ...Greg Snelgrove, executive director of the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission, said Monday that, while he, too, is pleased with NRG’s decision, “we’ve got to be ever-vigilant” in working to discourage other alternative power companies from initiating industrial wind farm interests here.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and windmills are no exception. One windmill is taller than the Statue of Liberty. Its huge turbine is longer than an 18-wheeler, and each one can generate enough power for more than 500 homes. From the air you can see them on almost every mesa, stretching for miles. ..."I'm offended that my neighbor would sell himself for money and not care what it did to me," Dale Rankin said. "I'm all for people making money. I'm all for people making a profit, having an income, but I think you need to be considerate of your neighbors when you're in that pursuit."
...wind power has attracted an impressive array of critics. Scientists question wind power's efficiency as a consistent power source. Number crunchers point out that without subsidies, wind power is a prohibitive energy source. Biologists, birders, and hunters cite the deadly effect of these huge turbines on migrating and permanent populations of birds and bats as well as the destruction of crucial habitat in order to service the elaborate infrastructure. The technology is so new, and the pressure to create clean energy so intense, there has been little regulatory oversight of the industry nationally, and organizations traditionally thought to oppose such habitat degeneration, such as the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society, have voiced their support for wind energy.
County leaders are working with state legislators to change the way wind farms are regulated in Texas. Robert Weatherford is the president of Save Our Scenic Hill Country, a group of land owners working to keep wind farms out of the area. "You will literally be able to see them for miles. So we do think that it would destroy the scenic beauty of the Texas hill country," Weatherford said. ...Gillespie County is worried that would mean less visitors like Jones. "That's why people come to these places, is to see the view," Jones said.
A failed attempt by one alternative energy company has not stopped efforts to bring wind farms to the Hill Country. A West Texas-based company has approached landowners in Llano and Gillespie counties, and yet another wind power company has approached a landowner in Mason County.
Ladd said the purpose of tonight's meeting is to get concerned taxpayers who don't like the idea of "wasting our tax dollars, increasing our electric bills and diminishing our property values 30 to 40 percent" involved. "If it were not for the tax credits involved, we would not have wind turbines being constructed in the state of Texas," Ladd said. "... It's the biggest waste of tax dollars I have ever seen."
The price of progress is now considered a pain to some ears in Shallowater. Some folks there are upset about the new wind energy turbines now being used by Shallowater ISD. The school district turned them on back in January. They’re meant to save tax dollars, but some say the by-product, sound, is too much. Chad Dugger, a resident in the area says, “I can hear them when they turn off and turn back on. It’s not too much fun living here anymore.” The wind turbine is less than 300 feet from Dugger’s back yard.
The council, without hesitation, did vote unanimously to amend the Lewisville Code of Ordinances to prohibit the use of wind turbines for the generation of electric power within the city limits of Lewisville. The council agreed that, at least until technology improves so the wind turbines will create less noise, that they will not be allowed in the city limits.
His distaste for wind-generated energy may have begun as a “not in my back yard” sentiment. But as he learned more about the industry, Rankin said, his attitude hardened. With several of his neighbors, Rankin filed one of the first anti-wind-industry lawsuits in the state, arguing that wind farms are a public nuisance that do little to help the state’s energy needs. “One of the things that really energized us is how quietly, how stealthily and surreptitiously these people worked behind the scenes,” Rankin said. “The lack of regulation, combined with the state renewable-energy mandate, is making Texas a prime spot for these wind companies. But I can tell you, nobody wants to live next to them.”