Wind farm blows in tour from 122 miles away

Published: May. 17, 2018 at 10:54 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2018 at 5:35 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Hinton, Oklahoma, just west of Oklahoma City, has been sued by a wind energy group to build wind turbines in their town because of an ordinance they passed that they thought was unconstitutional.

Now they're turning to Sheppard Air Force Base for help because it's affecting them and they've been dealing with wind farms threatening to encroach on the base.

On Thursday a group of Hinton leaders spent Thursday on base for a fact-finding tour.

Hinton Mayor Shelly Newton met with Air Force Officers to talk about what's going on in Hinton, and the role wind farms have played on Sheppard Air Force Base and their missions.

Mayor Newton said their lawsuit with NextEra Energy is bigger than just the town of Hinton.

"NextEra is assembling a group of contractors now that are currently in Hinton who are there to build these turbines," she said. "And they're there now."

It all started two years ago when Hinton leaders were notified that wind turbines would be built in Hinton.

Mayor Newton said they were concerned it might stop the current momentum in Hinton.

"A lot of rural Oklahoma towns are drying up and blowing away," Mayor Newton said. "We are not. We are growing and we want to continue that growth."

So they passed an ordinance to keep wind turbines out of city limits.

Two weeks later they were sued by the energy group because they believe it was unconstitutional, saying they can place wind turbines on any land they own.

Mayor Newton then found out the wind farm would impact Sheppard Air Force Base and their two training routes directly above Hinton. That's because SAFB has low-level training routes over 100 miles from the base that can be disrupted by the wind farms.

"It took me a while to get the nerve, but I actually picked up the phone and I called Sheppard Air Force Base and said I have this problem," Mayor Newton said. "I said is there anybody that wants to talk to me?"

The next day Colonel Adrea Themely called wanting to help and learn more about the wind farm that could impact those two training routes.

That's what led to Thursday's fact-finding tour.

"We want to protect our aviators, our safety of flight, and the mission of Sheppard Air Force Base," Lt. Colonel Nathan Preuss said.

Lt. Colonel Preuss said they want to protect aviators from the risk of losing those training missions.

Mayor Newton said she doesn't know how productive the fact-finding tour was or will be moving forward.

"I really don't know if there's anything the Air Force can do about this," she said.

But she added Sheppard provided them with lots of valuable information on how they've dealt with the issue and appreciates what the base does.

"It's not to deny wind energy or green energy," Lt. Colonel Preuss said. "It's simply to be able to work together so that we can come to a win-win situation."

"We're trying to be proactive to resolve the issue before there is a huge issue and before it changes our town," Mayor Newton said.

She believes if they are stopped, growth will continue in the town.

Lt. Col Preuss said Sheppard has had to close down some of their training routes the last couple years because of wind farms, and said it doesn't just impact Sheppard, but military coalitions as well because they rely on those training routes to prepare pilots.

Mayor Newton said one thing they've learned is you can do something about the issue before the wind turbines are built. But once they are built, there's no moving them.

She added that another group will be coming to Sheppard in a couple weeks for another fact-finding tour.

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