General and Texas
Falling energy prices have forced billionaire oilman and investor T. Boone Pickens to trim spending on his renewable energy campaign and put his West Texas wind farm project on hold.
When Pickens launched his plan this summer to boost the use of wind and natural gas to ease American dependence on foreign oil, gasoline prices were at a record $4.11 a gallon and oil prices were at $147 a barrel.
A falling section of a lattice tower used for wind measurements caused the death of a contract worker on Sunday at a Kenedy County wind farm, his employer said Tuesday. Matthew Peterson, a 25-year-old test technician, died while working at Babcock and Brown Ltd.'s Gulf Winds project ...The Kenedy County Sheriff's Office was called to the wind farm at about 6 p.m. on Sunday. Peterson, employed out of GEC's Seattle office, was working with another man when the injury occurred, Richardsen said. The other man was not injured, he added.
Although T. Boone Pickens has become somewhat of a celebrity as of late - giving speeches and appearing on national television in interviews and commercials - the Oklahoma native is finding falling energy prices are making it difficult for his eponymous Pickens Plan to gain traction.
Furthermore, a host of other outside factors have cropped up to make the Texas oilman's push for renewable energy increasingly difficult ...Depressed fuel prices, while easier on consumers' wallets, hinder efforts to persuade companies and individuals to invest in renewable energy resources, especially when combined with a shortage of discretionary cash.
T. Boone Pickens' $10 billion wind farm - the cornerstone of his plan to build thousands of wind turbines from Texas to Canada - is about to be downsized because the oil tycoon can't raise money in the current credit crunch, the billionaire confirmed to the Observer. ...Asked about his plans to build a giant wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, Pickens said: "I've started it, but let's don't go into that, my project is getting ready to get downsized pretty quick.
"You can't get financing," he said. "But that will all come back."
According to wind developer FPL, wind conditions over the 3rd financial quarter were the least productive in the last 3 decades in the Great Plains -- go figure. Over the quarter, wind power generation came in 38% below expected totals, down 47% in September alone.
Higher than expected construction costs has a wind-tower manufacturing company asking for more money -- $700,000, to be exact -- from the city of Abilene's economic development arm.
According to Development Corporation of Abilene records, Tower Tech Systems, Inc., now estimate construction and equipment costs will reach $27 million, or about $7 million more as was estimated in DCOA's original assistance package.
Wind power developer Higher Perpetual Energy and turbine manufacturer DeWind are on their way to spending about $1.2 billion to boost wind energy in the Panhandle.
The plan is for a total of 310 turbines across the region in three years. The pair are finishing two small wind farms, with two larger ones on the drawing board.
"The small ones will be very profitable," said David Tatton, president of Higher Perpetual Energy. "But they are also test projects for the teams working together."
More than 100 people gathered at the Morgan Mill Community Center Oct. 13 to hear more information about the wind turbine industry.
Robert Weatherford and Bill Renfro from Fredericksburg gave a presentation about how Gillespie County residents have handled wind turbine companies in their area.
According to a meeting report from Gary Key, a non-profit organization supported by more than 300 residents encouraged companies to consider areas in West Texas that produce more wind.
Three years after the courts ruled against their claim to their ancestors' land, members of the Balli family said they'll keep fighting.
Since July, about 40 family members have staged protests against the developer of a wind farm, claiming it is intruding on their land claim awarded about 200 years ago by the King of Spain.
"They're trespassing on our property," said Nicholas Balli, a mechanic in Harlingen.
Texas utility regulators urged transmission companies to agree on who will build $5 billion in new power lines needed to unleash the state's abundant wind generation, rather than force a state utility panel to hold a lengthy proceeding. ...Meanwhile, the pace of wind-turbine installation has begun to slow from the break-neck speed seen in the past two years to allow the grid to catch up, according to developers and the Texas grid operator.
Advocating local control to approve or disapprove of the installation of industrial wind farms in any Texas county, Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher testified before a State Senate committee Monday.
“Local county officials are in the best position to judge whether or not a wind project makes sense in their particular area based on all the relevant factors, including the desires of the citizens,” Stroeher said.
Wind turbines will whirl through the State Capitol and stir up a storm on the Senate's agenda today as the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce plans to discuss current industry regulations and practices associated with the turbines.
The committee will hear testimony from the Public Utility Commission of Texas on the siting process for wind turbines, wind generation industry representatives on the impact of industry regulation and local land owners on the private property rights. Members of the public also can participate in the discussions.
More than 50 people met with representatives of Mesa Power Pampa LP Tuesday in the Elliott Community Center. Landowners from Oklaunion, Harold, Punkin Center and Elliott heard the company is interested in possibly leasing land in the area for a wind farm. ...Mesa Power plans to install two or three 200-foot wind towers in the near future to collect meteorological information for the project. The company is shooting for a 400-500 megawatt project that would require some 30,000 to 40,000 acres of land. This would provide room for 200 to 267 wind turbines.
Not everyone favors the wholesale conversion of wind energy into electricity. Controversies and obstacles surround the development of wind energy in Texas. This article examines a few of these issues.
Coastal Habitat Alliance, made up of several environmental groups, the King Ranch and others, had previously filed suit unsuccessfully against the Public Utility Commission and the Texas General Land Office in an effort to halt the projects. The federal complaint, filed last month against the state, is another attempt by the group to halt the projects.
The group's complaint alleges that the state failed to comply with the terms of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act by deregulating coastal electric generating facilities.
Florida Power & Light Company, a subsidiary of FPL Group, pulled the plug on a 35,000-acre Wilbarger County wind power project this week.
The company packed up the $400 million project in light of recent commotion in financial markets and transmission restraints in the area.
Nationwide financial turmoil has caused FPL markets to flip and flop, too.
"It is certainly our intention to build this project at some point in the future, but that will hinge on several things. Our markets have really changed in the last six months or so," said Steve Stengel, FPL spokesman. "I can't give you a time frame on when that would occur."
Farm Service Agency is accepting emergency farm loan applications for losses caused by drought and high winds since Jan. 1 at the Wharton office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Calhoun, Jackson, Victoria and Wharton counties are four of the 75 in Texas recently named by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer eligible for loans to cover part of actual production losses.
After completion, Roscoe's wind farm will have an estimated 627 wind turbines and a total capacity of 781.5 MW, or enough electricity to power over 260,000 homes.
But despite possible future setbacks for the wind energy industry, including a production tax credit set to expire on Dec. 31, Patrick Woodson, Chief Development Officer for the U.S. operations of E.ON, doesn't see anything standing in the way of E.ON's Roscoe wind farm.
Billionaire alternative power proponent T. Boone Pickens abandoned a partnership between projects piping water and power from West Texas to focus on delivering electricity from a gigantic wind farm under development.
Pickens had proposed a 250-mile transmission line and pipeline route joining resources in the Panhandle to customers in North Texas. ..."The freshwater supply district is out of the picture now," project spokesman Steve Zarangue said. "Mesa Power and the freshwater supply district are no longer in play, as far as what's being done now."
Blue H's 328-foot-tall wind turbine is different from the offshore generators that have sparked opposition from U.S. coastal residents. Because it sits atop pontoons, this turbine can operate in water farther from shore, where winds are stronger and more reliable - and where it's not visible from land. ...Linowes said that those opposing onshore wind projects - which often are gigantic schemes spanning tens of thousands of acres - welcome proposals to place turbines out in the water.
She calls current onshore turbines "dinosaurs" and says she finds Blue H's idea appealing because it shows "that we should look to new technology rather than bigger land-based turbines," she said.