WIND WINS TEXAS SHOWDOWN
A U.S. District Court Judge has validated the claim from wind developer Babcock & Brown that charges blocking their Texas Gulf Coast installation were without merit. The crucial decision dismissed charges brought by a local wind opposition group.
Babcock & Brown had previously done extensive environmental studies but the Coastal Habitat Alliance (CHA), an environmental group created by wind opponents to obstruct the Gulf Wind Project, claimed the project was built without an environmental review or permit and was therefore in violation of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. CHA also alleged it was denied a voice in hearings on Gulf Wind Project transmission development.
A CHA-commissioned report on the wind project’s possible impact on the migratory habits of birds in the region found potential harm. A representative of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told NewEnergyNews the report’s findings came without up-to-date, on-the-ground studies and were not scientifically valid.
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yaekle (Western District of Texas, Austin Division) agreed.
The installation is expected to go on line later this year. It will provide 20 full time jobs to a rural, low population, job-hungry region and send 280+ emission-free megawatts to the Texas electrical grid.
(For background, see HIGH NOON IN TEXAS: WIND WON’T BACK DOWN)
The judicial decision is the 2nd major good news story from Texas this week. The first, posted below, is that power plant operator NRG has reached an agreement with environmental groups on cutting back its emissions. The 2 stories work in tandem: With Gulf Coast winds now more accessible to developers, coal plants are a step closer to being history. With the agreement between NRG and Texas environmental stewards, power plant developers have demonstrated they see the wiser choice.
The decision could free for completion several installations in the wind-rich region. (Used by permission of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times - click to enlarge)
Wind Energy Development Path Cleared in South Texas; Final Challenge Dismissed, Freeing South Texas to Harness Its Wind Power and Create Clean, Renewable Energy
August 7, 2008 (Babcock & Brown via The Earth Times)
Judge dismisses lawsuit against Texas wind farm
August 7, 2008 (EnergyCurrent)
Babcock & Brown (Hunter Armistead, head of North American energy group; John Calaway, chief development officer); the Kenedy Memorial Foundation; the Coastal Habitat Alliance (CHA); Lee Yeakel, U.S. District Court Judge, Western District of Texas, Austin Division
Judge Yeakel dismissed charges brought by CHA that Babcock & Brown violated the federal Coastal Zone Management Act by building the Gulf Wind Projects without an environmental review or permit and denying CHA a voice in hearings on transmission development.
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- Planning, including site and environmental impact studies, began in 2004.
- The Gulf Wind Project will be completed and operational in late 2008.
- Babcock & Brown was founded in 1977.
- The case was dismissed from the U.S. District Court, western district of Texas, Austin division.
- The Gulf Wind Farm covers 300 surface acres of the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation King Ranch property on the Texas Gulf Coast.
- Babcock & Brown has offices in Houston, Austin and Dallas and operates a 24-7 wind farm monitoring headquarters in Dallas.
- The non-profit Kenedy Memorial Foundation will use royalties from the wind installation to charitable purposes in South Texas.
- The 118 turbine, 283-magawatt capacity Gulf Wind Project created ~300 construction jobs. It will provide ~20 ongoing permanent maintenance positions.
- The wind installation will generate significant annual tax benefits to the area.
- Babcock & Brown operates 20+ wind installations with 1,600 megawatts of capacity in 9 U.S. states and is developing 25+ more.
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- Hunter Armistead, head of North American energy group, Babcock & Brown: " Our intention has always been to deliver the benefits of renewable energy while minimizing any impact to the environment. We were meticulous in the way we approached the development of this wind farm, which we believe will be used as a model for future wind farms around the country."
- John Calaway, chief development officer, Babcock & Brown: "The winds of South Texas are one of the largest and most attractive renewable energy resources in the country…Our Gulf Wind Farm will provide critical power when it is needed most because the coastal winds in South Texas blow the hardest at the same time our state's demand for electricity peaks."