Library filed under Impact on Landscape from Texas
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.
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.
But what happens when a good idea is put in the wrong place? "You've gotta look at the ecological setting. And some settings are wrong for it," said Jim Blackburn, a Houston-based environmental lawyer working for the Coastal Habitat Alliance, CHA. Projects by two companies now underway would put 600 wind turbines about 400 feet tall along the South Texas coast. That's where millions of migratory birds must pass through to fly south for the winter. "It's a world-class worst site," said Blackburn. CHA and other coastal environmental groups say the blades will kill the birds, and project threatens valuable Texas wetlands. But the companies behind the wind farms don't need any state permits to build.
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.
The dispute over construction of two wind farms adjacent to the famed King Ranch in south Texas entered the courts Tuesday when an alliance of conservation and related groups filed lawsuits to stop the projects. The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which includes King Ranch, filed separate lawsuits in state and federal court in Austin. The federal lawsuit claims the state has not done a thorough analysis of the impact the farms and their massive turbines will have on wetlands, habitat, endangered species and migratory birds. It seeks a declaratory judgment and, if needed, an injunction against the developers, whose combined initial investments are expected to top $1 billion. The state lawsuit claims the Texas Public Utility Commission illegally denied the alliance a chance to intervene in the PUC's hearings on transmission lines for the wind farms. ...But the alliance claims that because Texas receives federal funds to help protect the coastal region through the Coastal Zone Management Act, a thorough environmental review of the wind projects is required.
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.
The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which is fighting a massive wind farm proposed for the Kenedy Ranch in South Texas, has raised some troubling, not terribly well-studied problems with wind power - namely it may take a toll on wildlife. As it happens, the Kenedy Ranch is smack dab in the middle of one of the most important corridors for migratory birds in the U.S., a sort of feathery superhighway. ...the Alliance's demands are pretty simple - before the PUC grants a permit to build the 21-mile, high-voltage power line, they want a study commissioned on the impact to the birds, bats and bees.
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.
FREDERICKSBURG - Residents of this scenic Hill Country community are split over a California company's interest in building a field of wind turbines north of town to generate electricity.
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."
JACKSBORO — The wind rustling the oak trees on the Squaw Mountain Ranch soon may be its undoing as a starkly empty, unspoiled corner of North Texas. Riding the boom that last year pushed Texas past California as the nation’s leading wind energy producer, a wind power company wants to scatter 100 turbines across an area roughly nine miles long and two miles wide, with at least a dozen of the 250-foot towers on the ranch. “I’m not interested in having blinking red lights causing the Milky Way not to be as bright or to hear them when now I hear nothing up here except the sounds of nature,” said ranch manager Dan Stephenson, explaining why the ranch declined to lease land for the project and objects to its neighbors leasing as well. “Wind farm, that’s a spin term,” Stephenson said as he took in a vista of tree-covered ridgelines. “I call them wind turbine industrial zones.”
Elsewhere, the General Land Office has gotten into real estate speculation, destroying rare habitats for profit. For instance, in discussions regarding coastal wind farms, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson dismisses grave neo-tropical bird migration concerns with "This is Texas. We don't have Walter Cronkite and Ted Kennedy whining about their back yards."
The Plaintiffs acquired their properties with the intent of country living, enjoying the wildlife on their properties, some hunt on their properties, some let others hunt on their properties yet the Plaintiffs have suffered the following effects from the erection of the turbines: significant loss of use and enjoyment of their properties, negative impacts on the wildlife on their properties, interference with the ability to hunt and have others hunt on their properties, interference with the electrical functioning of their homes such as satellites, televisions, and the circuitry, destruction of the scenic countryside, a diminishing of the use of the properties for outside functions, lights, noise, trespass by the Defendants onto their properties, damage to their homes from dynamite blasts, cutting down trees by the Defendants on a Plantiff's property, concern for the health impacts of living under turbines, dread, fear and the loss of the previous love for their homes. The Public as well has suffered a loss from the destruction of this scenic and historic area of Taylor County and the complete disregard of FPL Energy, LLC for the endangered species in the area when it constructed Callahan Divide Wind Farm.