“Across the state, Texans are fighting subsidies for big renewable energy corporations. It’s an uphill battle as negotiations of these special deals under [Texas] Tax Code Chapter 312 and 313 are hidden from public view. But numerous communities are winning.”
– Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Texans Are Winning,” February 18, 2019.
The Texas wind industry has been constructed on the backs of US taxpayers, state and local taxpayers, and captive electricity ratepayers. The ruse can be traced to 1999 when an Enron-driven electricity restructuring law provided a 2,000-MW renewable-energy quota for Texas (think Enron Wind Corp.). Texas governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry were instrumental in the crony crusade, unfortunately, a story told elsewhere.
The takeoff of this politically correct, economically incorrect power source is explained by concentrated benefits, diffused costs. For years, the opposition was unorganized, while Big Wind lobbied and won. But the locals have mobilized after a lot of bad experience with nearby turbines. And at this late date (nearly 20-years), Texas’s highly able free-market think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), has joined in at the grassroots level. (Tops-down, TPPF has been active for many years ).
Big Wind is encountering more resistance than ever before in Texas, as in other states. And it is happening at the grassroots where real environmentalism hits the road.
In mid-2018, TPPF launched the “End Renewable Energy Subsidies” project. Their website states:
Renewable energy subsidies have cost Texans more than $13 billion since 2006. Nationally, the production tax credit for renewables will cost taxpayers as much as $65 billion through 2029. These subsidies reduce the reliability of the electric grid and harm taxpayers and consumers. In 2019, the Texas Legislature can take steps to combat these harmful effects by eliminating tax abatements for renewables and forcing wind generators to pay for the costs they impose on the system.
Recently, TPPF reported the following in seven Texas counties, demonstrating the changing political situation in favor of economics and the environment:
Wharton County: Cricia Ryan caught wind of closed-door negotiations over a proposed wind farm when a new met tower [meteorological evaluation tower] was constructed and land men approached her neighbors about leases. She immediately discovered that she wasn’t alone in her concerns, and with her neighbors formed Wharton County Against Wind Farms. They held a series of public meetings and individual meetings with local officials. They have won the fight for now; applications for 312 and 313 tax abatement agreements have been defeated by or withdrawn from Wharton County, El Campo I.S.D. and Louise I.S.D. But they are still active in case the wind developers come back for more. Follow the Wharton County Against Wind Farms page.
Van Zandt County: David Dunagan wants to save the environmental and agricultural value of land in his home county. Having successfully fended off subsidies for a local solar project, he and other residents were shocked to hear the project might continue without local tax abatements. Subsidies like the federal Investment Tax Credit and statewide mandates to purchase renewable energy are so immense that even unwelcome and uneconomical projects can turn a profit. Their organization, Save Van Zandt County, is taking the fight to the Texas Legislature, which is currently in session. Visit their website.
Val Verde County: Landowners along the Devils River know the wild beauty of Texas is is a treasure worth fighting for. Residents and landowners from around the state are concerned that their piece of wild Texas—and the ecotourism industry with it—will be only a memory if wind farm growth continues; one is already operating in a corner of the county. A local conservation organization is leading the fight to save wild Texas. Visit the Devils River Conservancy website.
Montague County: Neighboring Clay County, Montague residents are concerned about the effects of subsidies for industrial wind on their lifestyles and property values. Residents argued that subsidies might seem like a good deal for the budgets of local governments in the short run, but the long term harm outweighs those. They explain that wind turbines would devalue property to the point where it could not be sold. Local organizers formed Montague County Against Wind Farms to fight the special deals proposed by wind developers. Their fight continues as they actively engage their local county commissioners and school board trustees. View the Montague County Against Wind Farms website.
Gillespie County: Conservationists in the Texas Hill Country feared the loss of their valuable and scenic environment to the encroachment of industrial wind and the power lines that came with it. Residents mobilized and worked with Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment, a grassroots organization, to prevent subsidies for wind development. The group fended off developers so effectively that they haven’t come back since. Visit the Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment’s page.
Clay County: Residents are acutely aware of the effects large wind turbines have on Clay County’s Sheppard Air Force Base. At a community meeting in late 2018, stakeholders spoke about the effects of wind turbines on flight training routes. The impending closure of more routes lead many to fear the the base itself could be closed. Subsidies for the development would make residents pay for the demise of their local economy. Their fight is still raging, but they are winning; public opinion is strongly on their side. Visit the Clay County Against Wind Farms website.
Brown County: When landmen approached residents of Brown County about leasing their land for wind turbines, word got out. An uproar followed, leading to the organization of Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy (BCCRWE). The group has led a public information and activism campaign to tell the truth about wind farms, their effect on public health, and the unkept promises about jobs and economic benefits. While they have successfully stopped new wind farms from being built, wind farm developers have not given up in their efforts to get favorable tax treatment from local officials. Residents are continuing the fight. Visit the BCCRWE website.
If wind power were really a viable proposition, each project would stand on its own without federal tax subsidies, state tax subsidies, local tax favors, and socialized transmission costs. The Texas Public Policy Foundation may have been years late to the fight, but there is no time like the present to level the playing field to benefit ratepayers and taxpayers alike.
The natural environment, spared the industrial wind turbines in rural Texas, will be all the better for it as well.
 As Bill Peacock, vice president of research at TPPF, recently reminded me (email communication of 2/23/2019):
One of the very first things I did at the Foundation, 15 years ago, was fight in the Texas Legislature against an expansion of the RPS, pushed by Gov. Perry. We had some success; they got about half of what they were looking for. Here is a quote from me in 2009 complaining that
“Texas consumers are already on track to pay more than $20 billion in subsidies to renewable energy producers through 2025. Most of the subsidies today are going to wind energy producers. Legislation pending before the Texas Legislature would increase these subsidies-especially for solar and biomass energy producers-by about $1.1 billion a year.”
Other data points. Peacock’s “Texas Wind Power: New Record, Bad Economics” was published in March 2013 at MasterResource. Back in 2013, I participated at a TPPF panel on windpower, challengeing the “conservative, biblical case for windpower” of Jeff Clark of the Austin-based Wind Coalition, summarized here.