April 19, 2012

By Mark Collette
Corpus Christi Caller Times

CORPUS CHRISTI — The Navy signed an agreement with a wind farm developer Thursday that paves the way for 83 turbines to be built near Riviera, over the objections of local officials.

The agreement is a first since developers began tapping the Texas coast for its steady daytime winds and, military officials say, can serve as a blueprint for cooperation between alternative energy developers and the military.

It also comes as a stark contrast to last year, when the commander of Naval Air Station Kingsville made public appeals to state and local officials to consider how wind turbine encroachment could affect military installations around the state.

At issue is the tendency for turbines to interfere with military radar, creating slices of airspace in which aircraft cannot be detected.

The Navy and Texas Wind Group, developer of the Kleberg County wind farm, said Thursday’s agreement solves or minimizes those problems.

It calls for technical solutions, such as connecting the Kingsville base’s radar system to the radar at Corpus Christi International Airport, allowing the radars to work together to pinpoint and ignore signals received from wind turbines. Texas Wind Group agreed to pay $500,000 toward the upgrades.

The developer also will reposition certain turbines that would have interfered with radar, and temporarily will shut off turbines under circumstances in which the base’s precision approach radar is negatively affected. Because turbines change the orientation of their blades depending on wind conditions, the degree to which they interfere with radar also can change with atmospheric conditions.

The city of Kingsville has issued a resolution opposing the wind farm, saying that any potential impact to radar at area military bases is too much of a risk because it could make the bases a target for closures as the military periodically realigns and shrinks its inventory of installations.

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, praised the agreement, citing "development of wind energy without interrupting the critical missions of the Navy at NAS Kingsville," according to a news release.

Check out our interactive map showing constructed and proposed wind farms in the Coastal Bend and across the United States.

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