Tue June 21, 2011
Austin Firm Seeks To Build 200 Turbine Wind Farm Off Gulf Coast
One of the great contradictions of Texas is that, while we are the largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the United States, we also generate far more wind power than any other state. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, to find a company pushing to build the largest offshore wind farm in the country is based right here in Austin.
Technically, any offshore wind farm would be the largest in the U.S. That's because none exist yet, even though many projects are in the works. But Austin-based Baryonyx Corporation, with an office in the Littlefield Building on E. 6th St., hopes to construct a 200 turbine wind farm off the Gulf Coast with enough capacity to power 750,000 homes.
“I see offshore wind as being as very complimentary to oil and gas, not in competition at all,” said Mark Leyland, a Baryonyx senior vice president who spent 25 years working for oil and gas giant Brown & Root in the North Sea before moving into the renewable energy industry.
Leyland says the large offshore oil and gas industry in Texas provides Baryonyx with access to the expertise required for offshore construction, design, and engineering. “All those kind of things, the Gulf of Mexico is very familiar with,” he said.
Baryonyx recently applied to the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with developing its wind farm at three sites. One is 26,000 acres off the east coast of Mustang Island near Corpus Christi. Two others are further south towards Brownsville. Even if the permit is approved, Baryonyx’s 200 turbine would take ten years to roll out.
Nevertheless, those sites are in the middle of important migratory path for birds, a concern for conservationists. Luke Metzger with Environment Texas says it’s important to strike a balance between generating clean energy and protecting wildlife.
“I think we certainly support offshore wind in general, but the siting has to be appropriate, and many of the monitoring and mitigation steps have to be part of the project,” Metzger said.
The wind energy industry has become increasingly sensitive to those environmental concerns, and has deployed radar systems that can warn when large flocks of birds or bats are approaching. One project that adopted such technology was the Peñascal Wind Power Project in South Texas.
The Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public comment on Baryonyx’s application for an offshore wind farm. You can forward your comments and questions here:
Jayson M. Hudson
Regulatory Branch, CESWG-PE-REU.S.
Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1229
Galveston, Texas 77553-1229