The wind energy industry has long had some lawmakers gunning for it. The latest rear-guard action is a disingenuous effort to portray the industry as a threat to military preparedness.
State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, have emerged as the faces of wind-energy opposition using the proximity of wind projects to military bases as a pretext to take away all-important tax incentives for clean energy. They’ve introduced companion bills, SB 277 and HB 445, to deny tax incentives to developers of new wind turbines within 30 miles of a military airfield.
And in Washington, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, are backing federal bills that would impose similar restrictions nationwide.
Yes, poorly located turbines can interfere with low-level military flight training exercises and hinder the detection of small planes on radar systems. But there is already a national process for wind farm developers, local communities and military installations to review pending wind farms. If a base commander has concerns that can’t be resolved, those wind projects won’t be built.
In addition, ERCOT, the state’s electric grid operator, requires developers in Texas to contact the military very early in the development process in order to resolve potential conflicts smoothly, thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott.
Nor is the military asking for this solution. In fact, a Department of Defense Clearinghouse report in 2015 concluded that “it is not possible to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standoff distance between DOD military readiness activities and development projects.” That’s a polite way of saying that a proposal like a 30-mile buffer zone — roughly the distance between Grand Prairie and Plano — is a lousy idea.