Military Readiness and Wind Energy – Texas Can Have Both

The wind swept plains of America’s Wind Corridor are a perfect place to generate electricity using this infinite and powerful energy resource.  With their wide open spaces, they are also an ideal place for military aviation facilities, including airfields.  The military mission is critical to our nation’s defense and always takes precedence but, thanks to collaboration and a thoughtful federal evaluation process, it is possible for the region to enjoy the benefits of both military readiness and wind energy.

To ensure this, wind energy developers plan carefully and coordinate with the military to ensure that wind projects do not interfere with the execution of military missions.  This is accomplished through the Department of Defense Clearinghouse, an existing, well-functioning review process in place to make sure that energy projects and military bases can coexist.  No “one size fits all” approach will properly evaluate each project so proposed projects are evaluated  on a case by case basis during which wind farm developers and military experts work together to identify and, if possible, mitigate any hazard created by development.  This collaboration between the military and wind project developers through existing processes produces economic and environmental benefits for Texas communities while keeping military missions intact.

Despite this stringent federal process, some Texas legislators are proposing that buffer zones, or non-development zones for wind energy, should be established. Buffer zones do nothing to enhance national security, put at risk tens of billions of dollars in private investment, and prohibit private citizens from leasing their land for wind development as they see fit. American wind power is a homegrown energy source that contributes to American energy independence – making our nation stronger and more secure.

No Technical Basis.  This policy suggestion has no scientific basis, denies development rights to farmers and ranchers arbitrarily, and ignores the fact that wind projects already exist within 25 miles of military facilities across Texas. In fact, if a 25-mile buffer zone were already law, over 28% (5,067 MW) of Texas’s wind fleet could never have been developed.  Today, these wind projects are operating successfully near military bases in a compatible manner. Each military facility and wind power project has unique, site-specific needs and qualities.

A Sound and Robust Process Already in Place.  In 2011, Congress established the Department of Defense (DoD) Siting Clearinghouse. This comprehensive review process gives local military facility leadership an opportunity to review proposed wind projects, assess any impacts the projects may have on military installations or missions, and work directly with the wind developers to secure mitigation measures, if needed.

Additionally, to secure project financing, each turbine within a wind facility must receive a “Determination of No Hazard” from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During the FAA’s rigorous assessment process, all federal agencies with radar assets and flight operations, including DoD, are notified about the proposed project and have the opportunity to raise site-specific issues or object to a project.

State Action Denies Landowners Rights.  It is important to recognize the value and importance of Texas’s military facilities to national security and the state economy. It is also fair to note that the continued growth of the wind energy industry is in the state’s interest, for energy, economic, and environmental reasons. Creating a 25-mile zone around military facilities in Texas would remove over 16 million acres of land from the full control of Texas property owners and would significantly reduce Texas’s opportunity to take advantage of the many economic and environmental benefits of wind energy without creating any new safety benefits or Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) protection.

If we would deny landowners rights across millions of acres of land, we’d better have a technically justifiable reason to do so.

Let the Federal Process Work.  Establishing new buffer zones will put billions of dollars worth of wind projects under development at risk.  Buffer zones are bad for business, bad for the environment, and bad for Texas electricity consumers.

The Wind Coalition supports the current system because it is technically based and analyzes projects on a case by case basis.  The Coalition has worked to improve this process by establishing earlier notification of military bodies.  We continue to seek ways to enhance its function.  In contrast, buffer zones are not based in technical needs but arbitrarily devalue millions of acres of private farms and ranches, removing private landowners’ ability to develop their wind energy resource and to derive income to support their families.

We believe that landowners’ rights should be protected, except when the exercise of those right poses a risk to military operations or readiness.  If the government would choose to  deny farmers and ranchers the use of their land across millions of acres, they’d better have a darn good technical reason to do so.