June 26, 2007
King versus Kenedy continued

They're still fighting it out over wind farms - the Kenedy Ranch has 'em, the King Ranch doesn't want 'em.

King Ranch President Jack Hunt has called for state legislation to regulate the farms - the lack of such laws governing wind farms making Texas a favorite spot for potential wind projects. He's written newspaper opinion pieces and spoken to the media about what he sees as the dangers of the projects.

Hunt said he met with Kenedy Ranch overseers when the wind farms were first proposed a couple of years ago, hoping to get them to understand they're "sacrificing the long-term value of a rare resource for short-term revenue."

"But it sort of fell on deaf ears," he said.

Marc Cisneros, who runs the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation from nearby Corpus Christi, has declined to shout back. But he said the project on his section of the ranch not only is environmentally sound but will allow the foundation's charitable work to continue in an impoverished part of the state.

Which is pretty much what we've been hearing all along. Here's some new information, which is greatly of interest to me:

The disagreement lingers even as Babcock & Brown and PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., prepare the sites for the turbines, which they both hope to have spinning sometime next year. PPM's initial phase calls for 84 turbines on about 15,000 acres owned by the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust - a $400 million investment that's expected to generate 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 60,000 average-size homes.

PPM spokesman Jan Johnson said the company, part of Spanish power utility Iberdrola, has worked diligently to make sure the turbines will have as little effect on the area as possible. She said it already scaled back the number of turbines nearer the coastline in part to protect some birds' flight patterns.

Jim Sinclair, the local biologist who studied the birds for PPM, said he's been surprised at the relatively small number of birds he's seen near the wind farm site. The area's hundreds of varieties include mourning doves, long-billed curlews, hawks, orioles and redhead ducks. In general, Sinclair said, many of the birds stick close to the water and large clusters of oak trees, and the turbines are far enough away not to pose too much of a threat - information PPM says it's shared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others.

"We simply haven't seen a lot of them in the rotor-swept areas," Sinclair said.

If the issue is birds and the danger that turbines pose to them, then this is pretty compelling. I'd say the ball is in the King Ranch's court now.

I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of regulation here. Lord knows, we don't do enough to regulate other forms of energy - more precisely, we don't do enough to enforce those regulations. If we were talking about this being part of a comprehensive set of reforms - the kind that never seems to make it through the Lege unmolested - it'd be one thing. But until we can separate the King/Kenedy acrimony from what might or should be done, I'd rather be careful. Let the King Ranch show some evidence that the cost of what the Kenedy is doing is higher than they claim, and we can go from there. Link via South Texas Chisme.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 26, 2007 to The great state of Texas

How can I contact Mr. Jack Hunt, president of the King Ranch? If he is worried that the migratory birds are in danger with the production of wind turbines, then I have a way to keep the birds away from them.

Posted by: Colby R. Nix on June 29, 2007 5:34 PM