Residents from across Val Verde County came together in Del Rio on Thursday evening to discuss the effects of potential wind farms on their scenic region of Texas. Attendees heard from Randy Nunns, Ruthie Russell, and Dell Dickinson—local landowners—as well as comments from Texas Public Policy Foundation experts.
Residents voiced concerns covering a wide array of topics. Some expressed purely environmental issues; they didn’t want energy sprawl encroaching on Texas’ wild spaces. They questioned how wind farms would impact local bat colonies or birds such as the Bald Eagle and migratory birds. Others talked about economic concerns, such as the effect of wind farms on the presence of deer, which are vital to the local hunting industry. To some, these weren’t discrete concepts. Ecotourism meant that environmental concerns were also economic concerns.
Of significant concern was how nearby Laughlin Air Force Base or border patrol operations would be hindered by the presence of massive turbines. Laughlin trains more pilots than any Air Force base in the U.S., while the border patrol operates helicopters to help secure the border. Turbines could significantly affect the mission of both and thus could have a negative impact on the local economy and national security. (The state has already taken some steps to mitigate the impact on military operations, but some attendees insisted that it was not enough.)
No matter what the issue, there was an overriding concern about what to do next. Many expressed an unsure attitude about the receptiveness of the Texas Legislature to their concerns. As the existing wind farm, Rocksprings, did not gain approval for tax abatements from local entities such as the Val Verde County and the local school district, residents had little opportunity to intervene locally. That made some anxious, as they felt the possibility of effecting change diminished as they climbed each level of government.
No matter if you’re a citizen in Concho County, Matagorda County, or Val Verde County, the trend is clear. Wind farms mean an uncertain future and diminished faith in the institutions that were built to protect residents.