Texas lawmakers are preventing a Chinese billionaire from establishing a wind farm near a US army base out of concern that it could be used to hack into the state’s power grid, according to New York Post,
Sun Guangxin, 59, spent five years amassing 140,000 acres of land in Val Verde, Texas, in order to construct the Blue Hills Wind Farm.
The land, which is near the Laughlin Air Force Base, is estimated to cost around $110 million, Forbes reports.
The farm could have fed into Texas’ independently run electricity grid under Sun’s plan, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
However, his efforts sparked a political firestorm when it was revealed that Sun, who has a net worth of $2.1 billion, had ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
The plans were thwarted in June when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act, which prohibits foreigners from “hostile nations” from accessing critical infrastructure such as the Texas grid.
According to Texas Senator Donna Campbell, the law was enacted in direct response to Sun’s wind farm plans.
Critics of Sun’s plan had expressed concern that allowing a foreign company to connect to the Texas power grid would expose it to attacks similar to the recent hack of Colonial Pipeline.
Texas is the only state in the United States that has its own electrical grid. When snowstorms hit the area in February, the grid briefly went down.
Sun Guangxin’s ties with Chinese Communist Party
The Sun saga began in 2019 when local landowners and conservationists expressed concern that the construction of Sun’s wind farm would harm the nearby Devil’s River.
Soon after, Sun’s ties to the Chinese Community Party became public.
Previously, his company, GH America, employed army and government officials. He also has a personal relationship with authorities in China’s Xinjiang province, and as a teenager, he served in the People’s Liberation Army.
“Initially, we tried to take the environmental angle, because we had these endangered species and because the Devils River Conservancy has largely been focused on the ecological components of the region,” Julie Lewey, executive director of the Conservancy, told Forbes.
“Unfortunately, that angle didn’t get a lot of traction…We started to roll out the narrative and really just spread awareness and understanding that this company from China was planning to connect to our critical infrastructure.
“We’re not xenophobic but we are concerned for our national security, as every red-blooded American is.”
Some Texas politicians seized on the China connections and warned that Sun’s wind farms could pose a national security risk.
Senator Ted Cruz was among those who opposed the wind farm, citing its proximity to the air base.
“These wind farms affect our training routes and pose a severe risk to our national security,” Cruz said.
“The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated time and again they’re willing to invest billions of dollars to expand their espionage capabilities and their global reach, including through land purchase schemes near military bases.”
Despite the backlash, Sun says he now intends to lease his land to other companies so that the wind farm can be operated.