Two bills with the potential to impact the siting of new wind energy projects have been introduced by the Texas legislature. Senate Bill 277 (authored by Sen. Donna Campbell) and its companion, House Bill 445 (authored by Rep. James Frank), would if enacted prohibit the owner or lessee of any parcel in a reinvestment zone from receiving a tax exemption under a tax abatement agreement or a limitation on appraised value if a wind-powered energy device is “installed or constructed” on that parcel after September 1, 2017 at a location that is within 30 nautical miles of the boundary of a military aviation facility. This would appear to prohibit such agreements outright, with no opportunity for exemptions. Although the bill does not appear to apply to existing wind facilities, its application to expansion, repowering, or substantial turbine or equipment modification or replacement at existing facilities is unclear.
The bill is presumably intended to ensure that siting of wind energy facilities is compatible with military training needs. Texas A&M’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources has noted that eight military installations with flight training requirements are located in areas with wind speeds optimal for wind energy; that more than 3,500 square miles of military special use airspace overlaps with a Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) and more than 2,500 miles of military training routes pass through a CREZ; and that approximately 22 percent of the state’s existing turbines are in the radar vectoring areas of flight training installations.
This is not the legislature’s first attempt to restrict the development of wind energy projects in proximity to military installations. Bills proposed in 2011 (SB 497 and HB 1509) would have required any person who intends to begin construction or expansion of a wind-powered electric generation facility to notify the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) of the planned construction or expansion, and would have required TCEQ to notify federally-owned or operated radar installations or military installations if any part of the planned construction or expansion occurs within 25 miles of the installations. That bill passed the Senate and reported out of the House Committee on Defense & Veterans’ Affairs but was not voted on by the House.