The debate about wind turbines has been a topic of interest in the US, and long before a Chinese spy balloon created tension among Americans, Kyle Bass had expressed concerns about the potential threat that wind turbines could pose in the skies above the Texas-Mexico border, according to Dallas Metro News. 700 feet tall, these turbines were scheduled to be erected over thousands of acres near the pristine Devils River.
Although protests arose as it was seen as a potential threat to the sensitive ecosystem in Texas, it was only when the spotlight shifted to the Chinese billionaire behind the project that state lawmakers jumped to action to curtail the development. With growing tensions between the US and China, foreign land ownership concerns have increased across nearly a dozen statehouses and Congress.
In Val Verde County, Bass and other Texas landowners won a small victory initially, but plans for the wind turbines are back on. This has caused whiplash in the rural borderlands, hurt feelings and testing the limits of environmental action against renewable projects proliferating across the country. While President Joe Biden pushes for more wind and solar power to combat climate change, local resistance is growing in places where residents are asked to live with towering turbines.
In South Texas, concerns over a wind farm being developed by GH America Energy, controlled by Chinese billionaire Sun Guangxin, fast torpedoed the project in 2021. It previewed the wave of states now considering limits on foreign land ownership. Texas lawmakers banned Chinese companies from accessing the state’s power grid and other critical infrastructure, forcing the aspiring wind farm developers to sell their interest.
The Spanish renewable energy company Greenalia bought it, wiping away national security concerns. Although state politicians have vanished from the fight, landowners claim that ecological dangers still loom, with scores of whirring blades potentially endangering migratory birds that fly through the area seasonally and disrupting the flyways of monarch butterflies and Mexican free-tailed bats.
Although some residents are unfazed by the prospect of the wind turbines, others are concerned about the impact they will have on the environment, and ranchers who found powerful allies two years ago when the property was under Chinese control now feel forgotten. Although America’s biggest oil and gas state is moving aggressively against wind projects elsewhere, the proposal to create zoning limits for wind energy would not affect projects already under construction.
Although Texas Governor Greg Abbott is backing efforts to block wind and solar development from economic incentives in Texas, critics say this would undercut renewables and boost fossil fuels. In short, the Texas-Mexico border is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, with a new debate emerging over the potential impact of wind turbines on the environment, and the possibility of foreign ownership of lands, creating a divisive discourse between different stakeholders.