Monumental wind turbine components have been arriving in the Rio Grande Valley since late last year, and much hype has been brewing in Willacy County, Texas. It is exciting to see these mega monuments to “green” technology. A modern wind farm is under construction at Farm-To-Market Rd 507 and FM 1801, expected to be completed by December of this year.
Wind farms spell economic relief for Willacy County businesses is the title of an article written by Allen Essex for the Monitor where he presents different views and opinions of Willacy county residents regarding this “economic relief.” While some residents believe money is coming into local hotels restaurants, retail and hardware shops; others completely disagree. In the article’s statements, Matthew Tullis, spokesman for E.ON Climate & Renewals of San Antonio, said the company has spent over 3.5 million dollars on local vendors. Unfortunately, and according to the article, the truckers association does not feel they have completely benefited from this mega-project. It appears that the project has brought in a good number of jobs, but when completed, no more than 20 people will be employed. Regardless, these gigantic wind turbines are expected to generate about 400 megawatts of electricity.
From what I understand, there are two projects in the works; Los Vientos I, and Los Vientos II, with a combined total of about 283 wind turbines. The controversy and concern seems to be about a proposed Baryonyx Corp. Inc. plan to build 100 to 200 wind generators off South Padre Island, Texas. There is mention of an undergoing environmental impact review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but a draft will not be available to the public until 2014.
In today’s (June 8, 2012) Valley Morning Star Community Forum, a very interesting letter to the editor was published. It was written by Walt Kittelberger, chairman Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, Port Mansfield. In his letter, Kittelberger raises his concerns about the proposed offshore wind farm and draws genuine questions. He wrote the following;
*300 gigantic structures will pose a hazard to navigation.
*Radar systems will be compromised in and around these structures.
*Many birds will be killed.
* U.S. taxpayers will help subsidize the foreign owners of these structures.
What is uncertain is, the letter continued;
*How many birds will be killed?
*How badly will radar be affected?
*Will fishing be allowed bear these structures?
*Will boats be allowed to enter the waters occupied by these structures?
*Will shrimping be allowed in the area?
*Will exclusion zones be imposed?
In his letter, he also suggests the media is not covering events organized by people who oppose this particular project.
Rio Grande Valley residents certainly support and embrace progress, but we also love our beautiful sub-tropical habitat, home to hundreds of birds and wildlife. Is there really reason for concern? Maybe it is time for us to pay attention and speak up. What do you think?