In the rural borderlands of Val Verde County, Texas, a unique battle is unfolding over the proposed construction of 46 towering wind turbines. With plans for some of the tallest turbines in the country, the project has brought whiplash to the area, as well as hurt feelings and a testing of the limits of environmental action against renewable projects. Although President Joe Biden wants more wind and solar power to fight climate change, local resistance is growing in places asked to live with towering turbines.
The battle began in 2021 when attention turned to a Chinese billionaire behind the project, prompting state lawmakers to pull the plug. After the project was sold to Spanish renewable energy company Greenalia, national security concerns were wiped away. But ecological dangers still linger over the prospect of the turbines suddenly springing up, which could endanger migratory birds and disrupt the flyways of monarch butterflies and Mexican free-tailed bats.
The Devils River, located in Val Verde County, is a pristine white water that attracts thousands of visitors annually due to its picturesque canyon views and ancient rock art. However, if the turbines are built, the noise they create may disrupt the area\’s natural beauty. Additionally, local landowners worry the turbines will reduce their property values.
The Nature Conservancy in Texas, a non-profit organization that works to protect land, has come out against the project known as Blue Hills on Carma Ranch. Jeff Francell, a director of land protection for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, is worried about the proliferation of wind farms across the state and how the turbines will affect sensitive locations.
Though there is some support for the project amongst locals, including from Val Verde County Commissioner Beau Nettleton, landowners like Doug Meyer, who manages Monarch Ranch, feel forgotten now that national security concerns are resolved. He worries that the wind farm is being pushed through without consideration for the local people.
Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott is backing efforts to box out wind and solar development from economic incentives in Texas, which critics say would undercut renewables and boost fossil fuels. Republicans who railed against the China-backed wind farm have not leaned into environmental concerns, leaving locals frustrated.
Greenalia has stated it is \”highly committed\” to respecting local biodiversity, but it has yet to complete an environmental impact study, which Texas does not require. With the project potentially getting underway later this year, local people are hoping their concerns are taken into account and that their land is not forgotten.