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Limestone County sees benefits from wind power

Limestone Wind Farm
Posted at 3:16 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 19:50:40-05

GROESBECK, TX — The biggest power plant in Central Texas will soon go online, and folks say the windmills that stretch for miles from Mart halfway to Groesbeck are a sight to see.

It's a big boom for Limestone County. Willie Johnson only sees one problem with the hundreds of windmills sitting along the Limestone-McLennan County line.

"They need to get them all turning," he said.

The company that installed the giants said it hoped to get the first Central Texas wind farm up and running soon.

When the idea first came up more than 2 years ago, some Central Texans were nervous.

”I always worried a little bit about what it looked like, and I have to say it's actually grown on me,” explained Limestone County Judge Richard Duncan.

In fact, some call it Limestone County's most visible tourist attraction.

”I don't think they're ugly. We were through, we went to Waco today and it's just a sight to see. You go to countin' all of 'em... and see if they're turning or not,” said Johnson.

While some folks call them beautiful, the big wind turbines pack a lot of power.

So how much wind does it actually take to turn one of these windmills? Apparently not very much. On what most would call a slight breeze, the working windmills turns slowly and steadily.

Each one, experts say, can power hundreds of homes over a year.

"I drove to some other counties and visited with them to get the good, the bad and the ugly, and almost every one of them said that, so it's all been good and positive,” said Hon. Duncan.

So far it's been good and positive in Limestone County as well. In fact, residents hope to see more.

"It's gonna go all the way up to Waxahachie, what I hear, all the way up to Hubbard, Coolidge all up that a way,” said Johnson.

Yes, there's already talk about a new phase with more windmills.

"These people didn't spend billions of dollars without knowing, so their plan is to get contracts with people that will buy this electricity. They've already got those contracts secured," said the judge.

The company found land owners receptive to the plan and the check's they'd receive.

”They [land owners] lease their property to the turbines, but then they continue to... to have their cows grazing, to grow their crops, right up to the, to the base of the turbine, so it's like another cash crop for them,” said Susan Williams Sloan of the American Wind Energy Association.

The windmills in Central Texas started sprouting and growing this year, with more residents looking to reap its benefits. One single turbine, Sloan says, can power between 300 and 500 homes for up to a year. Now multiply that by the more than 100 turbines in Limestone County, that equals a lot of lights and a lot of jobs.

”25,000 jobs in Texas. From the wind industry, many new people coming into the industry, getting trained at like Texas State Technical College,” said Sloan.

Because somebody has to keep all these turbines running.

The Coolidge ISD superintendent told 25 News last year that he looked forward to extra tax revenue.

"As superintendent of Coolidge ISD, the economics it can bring to the table for our kids, I don't see how it couldn't have a benefit for the kids," said. Dr. Robert Lowry.

Limestone County worked out a Payment in Lieu of Taxes plan that the county judge says will benefit everyone.

”The next 10 years we'll start receiving half a million dollars per year, and so that was attractive to us,” said Hon. Duncan.

While the developers did their homework, the judge did his, making sure Limestone County taxpayers won't get stuck with these towers.

”There was a lot of questions, like what's going to happen at the end of 10 years? Are you just going to say, "Well thanks a lot," and there they are standing here and they're left with it. And we found that that's not the case,” said Judge Duncan.

He and others in the county hope the windmills all start spinning and don't stop for years to come.