by William Lutz    Mon, Oct 24, 2005, 09:27 PM
Wind turbine
Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the General Land Office, announced the signing of the first lease to provide off-shore wind power on state lands. Royalties from the production of wind power will go to the Permanent School Fund. The lease was signed by Patterson and Wind Energy Systems Technologies (WEST) of New Iberia, Louisiana. If production starts on schedule, it would be the first off-shore wide power produced in the United States. It is expected to generate 150 Megawatts annually.

“The environmental advantages when you do wind power, you do several things,” Patterson said. “One of them is you save about 20.7 million barrels of oil or about 6.5 million tons of coal, and that’s over the 30 year lease term. If you burn that fossil fuel, you would generate 270,000 tons of CO2 each year. And to mitigate that, you would have to plant 150 square miles of forest to convert that CO2 to Oxygen. Similarly, 150 Megawatts of wind energy avoids the production of 21,000 tons of Sulfur Dioxide and 10,000 of Nitrogen Oxide.”

The lease contains a minimum of $26.5 million in royalties over a thirty-year period. The royalty payments consist of 3.5 percent in the first eight years. 4.5 percent from year 9 to year 16, and 5.5 percent from year 17 to year 30.

Texas is uniquely situated to exploit wind energy. Unlike other states, Texas’s jurisdiction over the gulf extends to three leagues, instead of three nautical miles in other states. This is a vestige of Spanish law and dates back to the Republic of Texas. This means wind power generators need only the approval of the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put wind turbines off-shore. Patterson said the advantage of off-shore is the best wind conditions occur in the daytime, when demand for electricity is at its highest. Off-shore wind power is also a lot closer to Texas’s metropolitan centers than West Texas wind power. Galveston Island already has transmission lines that lead to the Houston metropolitan area.

The effect of wind turbines on migratory birds will have to be addressed. WEST committed to study bird migration during 2006 and adjust its wind power plans to mitigate impact on migratory birds. A question and answer document on this proposal prepared by the General Land Office is posted below.
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