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Windwood if the wind could
by Jason Collins
Apr 03, 2013 | 1474 views | 2 2 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Windmills like this soon dot the horizon in Live Oak and Bee counties
Windmills like this soon dot the horizon in Live Oak and Bee counties
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By Jason Collins

Special to the Progress

Southern Bee County could be home to a new energy source.

But this time, it isn’t coming from the ground.

It’s coming from the air.

Will Furgeson, with Lincoln Renewable Energy, told the Bee County Commissioners at a March 11 meeting that he and the company are looking at a multi-phase project named Windwood.

“The area we are looking at right now is at the intersections of Live Oak, San Patricio and Bee counties,” Furgeson said.

Phase 1 of the project will include Bee and Live Oak counties. Phase 2 will include Bee and San Patricio counties.

Furgeson told commissioners that he would be back before them later to ask for a tax abatement. He added that they are currently in negotiations with Mathis ISD for a value-limitation agreement.

“We are looking at a 72-megawatt project,” Furgeson said. “Depending on the size of the turbine, we are probably looking at 30 to 40 turbines.”

The question though is how much a megawatt of energy is really worth.

Well, one megawatt of wind energy is enough to power 350 households, Furgeson said. That also amounts to a savings of 2 million gallons of water per year.

Furgeson added that during the first 20 years of the project, this could mean a savings of 2.8 billion gallons of water.

However, nothing is ever easy, and there are considerations that must be made before starting a project of this magnitude.

“South Texas is a great place to develop a project, but there are a number of some challenges,” Furgeson said. “One of which is military radar, and the other is wildlife.

“We try to avoid migratory pathways.

“We are in our second year of forestry and avian studies, trying to make sure we are correctly understanding the bird species in the area.”

But the benefits outweigh the difficulties.

“The reason this project attracted us is that the South Texas wind profile... is more advantageous to utilities,” Furgeson said. “It is windiest in the afternoon when energy usage is the highest.”

In the Panhandle, where windmills speckle the skyline, the wind blows hardest and most steady at night — a time of lower energy usage.

For those seeing that this is a tremendous benefit to the energy grid, there is always a question of what is in it for the community.

Well, the property owners will get money for leases.

But, according to Furgeson, everyone will actually benefit.

He said that construction alone will pull in numerous workers.

A study published in December 2011 assessed the economic impact of just such wind farms.

It stated that communities see about $520,000 of economic activity per installed megawatt over the life of the project. Calculated out, that means that this community could see an infusion of $37.4 million.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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AvidShooter
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April 04, 2013
Following are points of concern regarding construction of a wind farm in South Texas.

NEGATIVE IMPACT ON PROPERTY VALUES: For those who grant the construction of wind farms on their property, and for owners of property adjacent to those facilities, the implications are not good.

What will the sight of those 400’ towers, blades whose expanse can equal the wingspan of a 747; the huge, indestructible concrete slabs at the base; the blinking red lights at night; and noise from the turning blades, do to property values for present and future owners and their neighbors?

While owners of property where a wind farm is located may realize some revenue from hosting these structures, their cost in terms of declining property values may well offset this gain if the owner attempts to sell their property. I offer a study called “Wind Turbines & Property Value”, conducted by Appraisal One Group, an impartial real estate appraisal firm, at the following link:

http://k.b5z.net/i/u/6016107/f/Wind_Power___Property_Value_Presentation_by_Kurt_C._Kielisch__Feb__11_.pdf

The study reported that property values decline anywhere from 12 to 40%, depending on a variety of factors, location being prominent among them.

With respect to oil & gas facilities and production, there is no comparison between the negative impact of wind energy facilities and production on property values, vs. the positive impact of the presence of oil & gas and associated production.

I am in a position to know unequivocally that demand for property with viable oil & gas potential and/or existing production is so strong that hardly any property falling into that category is available for sale.

Well, except one.

I recently visited a rural property that was for sale, and even though the sellers included some of their minerals with the sale, next door to the property ran an electrical highline. An individual who was interested in possibly purchasing the property accompanied me on my visit, but even the prospect of obtaining a mineral interest wasn’t enough to persuade her to overlook the transmission towers. In fact, the presence of the towers was the reason she declined to pursue the purchase.

Transmission towers and wind turbines share a number of characteristics, all of which detract significantly from the value of a piece of real estate.

It is likely not a good business decision for a property owner to allow the construction of wind turbines on their land. Here is another reason why that isn’t smart.

LACK OF REGULATORY OVERSIGHT AND PROTECTION: A lack of regulation of the wind industry means that there is no entity overseeing any aspect of the various companies’ operations. This means that, unless they hire an attorney, many landowners have little to no understanding of their rights under a wind lease.

They don’t know what kind of up-front money they’re entitled to, how much or how they should be paid going forward, what a lease term should be, how to deal with property damage issues, equipment malfunctions, and on and on.

A case in point regarding the issue of responsibility in wind operations is a recent lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Attorney General against Renewable Energy SD.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/01/25/news/swanson-sues-wind-energy-firm

Here is an excerpt from the story:

“According to the lawsuit, the company told farmers the wind turbines would pay for themselves through federal grant money from federal stimulus that Congress passed in 2009 and a state electricity buy-back law.

But many of the farmers had their wind turbines malfunction, and the company has failed to fix or replace the malfunctioning equipment, the farmers allege in the lawsuit. In other cases, the turbines haven't delivered the power the company promised, the farmers said.”

DECLINING EFFICIENCY & DETERIORATING WIND TOWERS: If the wind company fails, as seems to happen when the government subsidy teat runs dry, the landowner is left with enormous concrete slabs, towers and blades that hurt property values and can do significant damage if and when these gigantic structures deteriorate and crumble to the ground.

Under current Texas law, if a wind farm fails, there is no mechanism or funding source to ensure removal of the wind farm components. In the case of old oil and gas wells, there is a state agency – the Railroad Commission - and funding to deal with and remove those facilities.

Regarding the matter of life expectancy for wind turbines, I wish to share a report compiled by the Renewable Energy Foundation in the UK:

http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/280-analysis-of-wind-farm-performance-in-uk-and-denmark

The report shows that almost immediately after construction is complete, wind turbine components begin to deteriorate. A scientist in the UK named Clive Best, who follows climate change, has summarized the report. (http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=4470) He says, referring to wind turbines in the UK, “The lifetime for turbines is at least 10 years less than previously assumed…the load factor falls from 24% to 11% after 15 years!”

How will we know that Lincoln Renewable Energy will be around in 15 years, or even in two or three years, to maintain these structures and ensure their safe and optimal operation?

So far, Lincoln has completed only one project, which was operational as of Dec. 2011. That short track record doesn’t inspire confidence that the company has a long future ahead of them. By comparison, we know that Chevron, Exxon, Petrohawk and myriad other oil & gas companies will be around long after we are gone, and have and will responsibly manage their operations and facilities.

I don’t want to entrust such a young and unproven company with our precious and finite land in South Texas.

FOR THE BIRDS: During dove season, thousands of birds are killed in South Texas, no doubt about it. But the numbers killed are a miniscule fraction of the hundreds of thousands that remain. The dove population is robust and unthreatened.

By contrast, the birds that are imperiled by turbines are those that have already exerted much effort to fly thousands of miles to reach Texas, including the Whooping Crane, the Bald Eagle, owls, and other species whose number aren’t anywhere near those of the Mourning or White Wing Dove, and in many cases are declining or endangered.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that about 500,000 birds are killed each year by wind turbines, and those are based on carcasses that are found and not devoured by predators. The real numbers are likely much higher.

And from the American Bird Conservancy:

“By 2030, there will likely be more than 100,000 wind turbines in the U.S., and these are expected to kill at least one million birds each year—probably significantly more. Wind farms are also expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and over 4,000 square miles of marine habitat by 2030, some of it critical to threatened species.”

A “green” industry purporting to care about the environment that willfully destroys the environment is hypocrisy at its most heinous. At least the oil & gas industry doesn’t try to blow smoke up everyone’s skirt by claiming it is something it isn’t.

To summarize:

1. There is a legitimate and proven risk of reduced property values to landowners who allow the construction of wind farms on their property.

2. Land owners who do allow the construction of wind farms on their property do so with little to no precedence for what constitutes a arrangement that satisfies their best interests, both short- and long-term. There is no entity charged with regulating the wind industry in Texas.

3. The life expectancy of wind turbines is uncertain, as is the longevity of the companies responsible for their maintenance. Lincoln Renewable Energy has completed only one project so far. If they fail, who will assume responsibility for their operations?

4. South Texas is a primary flyway for migratory birds each year. While doves are indeed killed each season, there are ample numbers of those birds. Their overall well-being as a species is not imperiled by the numbers taken each year. The killing of doves doesn't justify the danger to other more endangered species that run the risk of death by flying through manmade blades.

5. In considering the cost vs. benefit of wind farms, is important to obtain objective, empirical information in forming positions that will be the basis for actions.

I encourage everyone who believes that this wind project will be good for South Texas to research, dig, ask, and be bold in seeking and gathering information from impartial, scientific sources and NOT from the wind industry. If somebody says this will be a great thing, ask them for proof as to why it will be; likewise, if they say it will not be good, as for the same proof. Don't settle for...hot air.

If you're a land owner considering allowing these structures on your property, or you own property next to one where the turbines could be located, you might start your research by talking to real estate appraisers.

Seek, and speak, the truth.
feelark
|
April 03, 2013
This is wonderful. Alternative energy in our area may become a reality. Let the wind blow!