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Wind farm owners taking steps to build in south Bee
by Jason Collins
Mar 24, 2013 | 3638 views | 3 3 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Windmills like this one could one day dot the landscape of southern Bee and Live Oak counties.
Windmills like this one could one day dot the landscape of southern Bee and Live Oak counties.
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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 commissioners last week 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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feelark
|
March 26, 2013
AvidShooter, in response to your comment, I can appreciate your position on wind power’s effect on birds. I too am a native South Texan, and have spent most of my years living in a rural area, and have been taught by my predecessors to be a steward of the land and the environment. I also know that any petroleum or natural gas-based solution to our energy needs is finite, and they carry their own set of risks, not only being harmful to birds, but Mother Nature in general. I think that you are being somewhat short-sighted in your lambasting of wind energy. As for your plan to oppose wind power, I will be your polar opposite in encouraging it.

As for death to the birds, Lincoln Renewable Energy is taking great precaution in doing as little harm to the bird population as possible. I have personally talked to Mr. Furgeson and he detailed studies that were being carefully done so that minimal amounts of birds would be threatened. If one were to put their ear to the wind around the 3rd or 4th week of September every year, the sound of many a shotgun unloading can be heard, killing thousands of migratory birds for “sport”, and that lasts a few months. The hunting is carefully monitored by Texas Parks and Wildlife so as not to threaten the bird populations. I would think that more birds are killed by hunting than by wind turbines.

As for their cost, it is somewhat expensive at first, but over a period of time, they pay for themselves. They are also “clean” ways to produce energy with one of our most abundant, INFINITE natural resources, wind. When compared with methods of fuel extraction such as fracking, there is no comparison as to which is safer. Wind power does not involve injecting harmful chemicals into the ground, with produces water that not only humans, but every living thing depends on. The scope of your argument is somewhat limited when the facts are presented as to who and what will be affected.

Let’s also talk about the air that we breathe. There is a record number of asthma cases out there now, largely caused by the polluted air that the petroleum industry produces. I happen to be married to one of the sufferers, and on certain days when the wind is blowing from the direction of Corpus Christi’s refinery row, it is impossible for her to breathe without expensive rescue inhalers. I would just about bet this affects birds and all forms of wildlife as well. This too somewhat diminishes your argument that petroleum and natural gas is the solution.

As for job growth, as afore-mentioned, petroleum and gas both represent finite resources. Eagle Ford Shale will not last forever, and when it is gone, the jobs will go with it. And as for your comment about greed and stupidity, most would readily associate those attributes to the petroleum industry rather than renewable energy. Again, stop for a moment and think long-term, about our children, our grandchildren, and further. Like it or not, renewable energy is the answer. The various wind farm projects in the Panhandle and surrounding areas are well on their way to meeting the goal of 5,000 new Megawatts of power to satisfy the energy goal of 2015.

As for ruined landscapes, that is strictly in the eye of the beholder. The first time my wife and I saw a wind farm in North Texas, our reaction was not one of shock and disbelief, but rather one of fascination and promise for the future. They were attractive to look at as far as we were concerned. You mention the “littering” of the pristine landscape around the Corpus area. Well I am here to tell you that the fishing is very affected by refinery row. I have been fishing in that area, and have caught redfish that were so smelly with oil pollution that they weren’t edible. I think birds eat fish, too, and it is without a doubt that they are affected. Just look on a larger scale at the BP disaster in the Gulf back in 2010. Did you see the pictures of the birds covered with sludge? I did. I don’t think that wind power will do that.

As for global warming, it is a reality whether you admit it or not, and wind and solar energy are both steps in the right direction to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. You mention subsidies-how about the millions of dollars that the oil and gas industry is STILL receiving despite posting record profits? Any subsidies made on behalf of renewable energy are miniscule in comparison. Something is a little out-of-whack there.

In closing, I feel as strongly in favor of wind and solar as you do against it. As a lifelong South Texan, I see the good outweighing the bad with alternative energy, and anyone who doesn’t needs to think a bit more long-term. I will continue to support wind power, and invite everyone else to do their own weighing of the situation.

AvidShooter
|
March 28, 2013
Feelark:

Thank you for your response to my comments. As I considered your feedback, I was reminded of additional points I wish to make regarding construction of a wind farm in South Texas.

REDUCED PROPERTY VALUES: Your frequent mention of concerns for the future impacted my focus. I began to consider the owner(s) of properties that are the location of wind farms, and the implications of wind farms on their property for those owners and their heirs. 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?

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, including the location of wind turbines.

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 anything 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 with the government 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: Yes, 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 millions that remain. The dove population is robust and unthreatened. By contrast, the birds that are imperiled by turbines are those that have already flown 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.

In considering my response to your comments, it was and is important to me not to attack or criticize you or your remarks, but to thoughtfully and carefully address your points, and make mine, with statements based on facts and data. My comments here are directed not so much to you or about you – none of this is about you or me - but to people who will hopefully read them and be inspired to learn more about this issue. I hope they read yours too, for there is a message in what you said and how you said it.

And for what it's worth, as long as it isn't funded by government subsidies and can stand on its own economically, I am actually in favor of solar energy. I have heard of no birds being killed by solar panels! So, I am not as closed-minded about renewable energy as it may seem.

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. It is important to look past the rhetoric of those trying to line their own pockets, and seek objective, empirical information in forming opinions. 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 and forming opinions. Most importantly, please obtain answers to the question, "What are the best and worst things things that can happen to this area if this project is approved?"

AvidShooter
|
March 25, 2013
I am just one person, but I will do everything in my, um "power", to see that this project and any like it targeting South Texas do not go forward. Here is why:

DEATH TO THE BIRDS: First of all, there is no way a wind turbine, and more concerning, a collection of them, will not have a deleterious and fatal effect on many - not all - indigenous and migratory birds. Right now, for example, all sorts of birds, such as hummingbirds, Scissortail Flycatchers, and others are migrating to their summer locales. Imagine a group of hummingbirds being knocked to the ground dead by a massive blade. It isn't a pleasant thought, and the reality is much worse. Google "wind turbines killing birds" and see what you get.

COST MORE THAN THEY DELIVER: There is overwhelming evidence that wind is one of the most inefficient forms of energy there is, especially in this age of cheap, clean natural gas. Forbes magazine recently published the following story pinpointing this precise truth.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/12/21/why-its-the-end-of-the-line-for-wind-power/

Here is an excerpt from that article:

"...at the current price of natural gas, and before counting any subsidies or transmission costs, ratepayers are paying about $8.5 billion more this year for electricity from wind than they would have paid if it were gas-fired power. That amount doesn’t even include the cost of the direct federal subsidies.

What’s more, ratepayers will have to shoulder that cost for as long as the turbines are in operation. That’s $8.5 billion a year that ratepayers are forking over to subsidize a less efficient, more expensive technology; $8.5 billion that could otherwise be invested in natural gas electricity...".

The article references a report from the American Tradition Institute detailing the cost metrics of wind energy. Here is a link to the 27-page report:

http://www.atinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Hidden-Cost.pdf

JOB GROWTH? For a wind energy company to enter an area where oil & gas rule is either bold or naive, I'm not sure which. Moreover, it is incongruous to tout job production, when job production is already so robust that nobody can find laborers because they're all working in the oil field. If Lincoln Renewable Energy wishes to lure workers away from oil companies, they will need to be prepared to pay exorbitantly high wages, which will only cost the rate-payers even more than the wind energy will already cost.

RUINED LANDSCAPES, & WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WIND TURBINES ARE ABANDONED?: Anyone traveling from Sinton to Rockport on Hwy. 188 can look across to the west, over what were once pristine farmlands, and see wind turbines littering the landscape. Worse yet, anyone fishing the Lower Laguna Madre to the Land Cut can look around to see wind turbines that are an insult to the hearts and minds of folks that ought to be enjoying nature at its finest. Instead, they are subjected to the hideous specter of inefficient, lethal, ugly towers symbolic of greed and stupidity.

Aside from all of the aesthetic downsides, what happens when the wind farm owner fails, which, if economics has its way and they likely will, and the landowner is left with abandoned towers? Here is an article dealing with such an issue:

http://www.naturalnews.com/034234_wind_turbines_abandoned.html

Here is an excerpt from that article:

"This whole wind energy mess just further illustrates how the American people have been played by their elected officials who bought into the "global warming" hysteria that spawned the push for wind energy in the first place. And now that the renewable energy tax subsidies are gradually coming to an end in some places, the true financial and economic viability, or lack of wind energy, is on display for the world to see.

"It is all about the tax subsidies," writes Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail. "The blades churn until the money runs out. If an honest history is written about the turn of the 21st century, it will include a large, harsh chapter on how fears about global warming were overplayed for profit by corporations."

It is my understanding that Lincoln Renewable Energy is seeking tax abatements to help build their project. Such concessions - to a company whose project will likely not only NOT generate the promised revenues and energy savings, but will probably end up costing South Texans - should NOT be granted. I will vigorously oppose this, and anyone who cares about this part of the world should oppose it as well.

As a native South Texan who loves photographing wildlife and birds, it is in my DNA to protect this area, and the land and the vulnerable creatures that inhabit it. To imperil them so that a company can make a profit from a venture that makes absolutely no sense is counterintuitive and selfish. We South Texans can do much better than this.