"The war is on" for local wind energy opponent John Greer, who this week gave talks at Midwestern State University about how the wind power industry will deplete rural land value while sucking up federal tax credits.
Really, the war started for Greer several years ago when he unsuccessfully tried to stem the development of the Shannon wind farm in Clay County. He said he circulated a petition signed by a large number of area landowners who wanted to stop the installation of wind turbines there, but soon after a county official told media that few opponents of the project existed.
"I thought, 'The war is on here,'" Greer said at a classroom inside MSU's Dillard College of Business Administration. "You do not know what's happening until it's in your backyard. And it's too late by the time that happens."
Greer is a managing partner and founder of Matador Capital Partners LLC, an energy-focused merchant banking firm in Dallas. He also is listed as the registered agent for Matador Oil and Gas LLC, according to Texas Secretary of State filings.
He admitted to attendees that he was speaking on the subject of wind energy with bias, "but it's a researched biased opinion."
Greer's efforts to dismantle the North Texas wind industry have been amped up in recent months — two new wind farms have been proposed near the Clay County communities of Bluegrove and Byers. The projects are expected to span more than 11,000 acres and cost $450 million.
He started his talk by addressing what he called myths perpetuated by the industry: that wind energy is a clean source of power, that it reduces dependence on imported fossil fuels and that it reduces greenhouse gases. Instead, Greer said, the wind industry swindles landowners, gathers federal tax credits and causes fluctuations in Texas' power grid.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas — commonly called ERCOT — is charged with providing a steady stream of electricity to homes in the state. Most of that power comes from coal and natural gas, but when the wind blows, ERCOT is more apt to purchase wind energy because it's cheaper.
The problem, Greer said, is that the wind doesn't always blow, and ERCOT's other electricity providers have to switch their distribution system to the state power grid on or off depending on wind availability. This also causes fluctuations in available power and could result in large-scale brownouts, he said.
"It's an unreliable energy source," Greer said. "The more power generated by wind, the more unreliable ERCOT will become."
In 2015, the state's leading power source was natural gas (48 percent), followed by coal (28 percent), wind (12 percent) and nuclear power (11 percent), an ERCOT report indicates.
The linchpin of Greer's argument is that it's just not fiscally smart to sign a lease allowing wind turbine construction on your property. Payments to landowners in those agreements are negligible and the towering structure could make your property unsalable should residents decide to move.
More money could be made by simply letting your property's value appreciate, he said.
"What's your land worth then? I guarantee you it's not worth nearly as much," Greer said. "Your land is dead at that point."
Tactics used by wind energy developers to convince landowners to sign leases can be coercive, deceptive and predatory, Greer asserted. A developer who has acquired a small swath of land leases can use them as leverage to acquire leases for nearby properties, and eminent domain can be used to string power lines across the properties of those who won't play ball, he said.
"Once they get their nose under the tent with 6,000 to 8,000 acres, they're off and running," Greer said. "They will run over you to get one of these things up."
Jimmy Horn, owner of Horn Wind PM LLC and developer of the Bluegrove and Byers projects, took issue with those remarks, defending the landowners who have signed leases with his company as intelligent, savvy businesspeople.
"Horn Wind has negotiated with some of the best lawyers in the wind and oil business on these leases and I would think some of these landowners may take offense to an outsider saying they are not capable of managing their own businesses and get tricked in negotiations," Horn wrote in an email.
About 20 landowners have entered into agreements with thus far regarding the proposed projects. No construction has started and Horn Wind reportedly is still running feasibility studies in connection with developments.