Residents cheer wind farm cancellation

GILLESPIE COUNTY, TEXAS - NRG Energy has decided to abandon plans to build wind turbines in Gillespie County, a move hailed by county residents and local officials.

"Based on environmental and economic data, there are more promising sites," said Dave Knox, a spokesman for NRG Texas. "We don't normally say we aren't considering something," Knox added, "but we this time we thought it was appropriate to let people in Gillespie County know."

NRG and its wind subsidiary, Padoma Wind Power LLC, became the target of criticism this fall after obtaining an undetermined number of leases to build wind turbines in the Fredericksburg area. Local residents fought back by forming a group, Save our Scenic Hill Country. Members of the organization have said wind turbines aren't compatible with the region and would harm the area's natural beauty, including views from Enchanted Rock State Natural area, a popular hiking and camping spot on the border between Gillespie and Llano counties.

"We are pleased and we applaud NRG's decision, but we are going to continue do what it takes to protect the area," said Robert Weatherford, a founding member of Save Our Scenic Hill Country.

As NRG's plans advanced, local officials also lined up against it. The city of Fredericksburg adopted a resolution recently opposing wind turbines, saying they would "permanently degrade the scenic vistas of our area for long distances."

And the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission said publicly that wind farms aren't a good fit for the region. Critics said wind turbines don't make economic sense for the region as state studies show that the area isn't particularly windy.

"Most of the community leaders are happy that they decided to withdraw and not put a wind project here," Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher said. "None of us are opposed to alternative energy, but we don't feel Gillespie is a good place for a wind farm."

Greg Snelgrove, executive director of the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission, credited state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, for arranging a meeting between wind-farm critics and NRG officials. "The message I gave to NRG is that there are a lot of places where you'd be welcomed with open arms," said Fraser, who said he remains a strong proponent of wind power.

"I think that's the message NRG received from the Gillespie County people. It just didn't fit their economic development plan." Lisa Daniels, executive director of Windustry, a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis that provides information on wind energy to rural communities, said it's rare for an energy company to withdraw.

"Usually, with good education about what a project entails and good information about what it will look like, that can allay concerns," she said. NRG's departure comes just four months after another company abandoned plans to build wind farms in Gillespie County. Energy giant AES Corp. of Arlington, Va., dropped plans for a large-scale wind project in the county in early August, citing harm it would cause to "several sensitive species and their habitats."



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