Articles filed under General from Texas
Many property owners were outraged earlier in the summer when letters from Mesa suggested T. Boone Pickens' company might use the power of eminent domain to seize land for placement of water and power lines. But the language at the Thursday meeting was more palatable to most. The project originally called for building above-ground electricity lines and underground water lines from Roberts County in the Panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But landowners affected by Mesa's plan recently received a second letter advising them the water project had been suspended for the time being.
T. Boone Pickens' joint right-of-way project has been suspended. Land owners from Roberts County all the way to Jacksboro County, near Dallas, may be getting a new letter from T. Boone Pickens company Mesa Power about acquiring their land. Pickens was proposing to build his own right-of-way that would have included an underground pipeline and an above ground power line. Now his companies have decided to split.
A few months ago, the Dallas area experienced rolling brownouts when a front moved through and the wind died unexpectedly, causing a large amount of wind-generated power to die out. Power plants had to scramble to get their gas- and coal-fired generators up to speed to offset the lost power when the wind generators dropped off. That's a problem because generating stations and their equipment do not take drastic changes in load easily, especially the big coal-fired plants. Equipment has to warm up, and keeping them "on standby" requires energy, in addition to "wear and tear."
Dale Rankin, one of the landowners who claimed FPL Energy created a nuisance by erecting ugly and noisy wind turbines at the company's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, said the group's attorneys have decided an appeal is in order. Rankin said that in his group's opinion, the appeals court erred. "Politics and the judicial world are not supposed to mix, and they obviously do," Rankin said, adding that there's "too much political pressure" on the appeals court to maintain the status quo and not get in the way of the wind turbine industry.
Patricia LaPoint said she wasn't surprised Thursday when an appeals court sided with the wind industry and upheld a lower court ruling that people can't sue simply because they hate the way wind turbines look or sound. "It's not surprising given the politics of wind energy in the state of Texas," said LaPoint, one of a group of rural Taylor County landowners who sued and claimed FPL Energy created a public nuisance by erecting unpleasant-looking and noisy wind turbines at the company's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center. LaPoint's group claimed noisy turbines lowered their property values and stamped out their picturesque views.
Young County commissioners will likely seek a 60-40 split on tax proceeds if they approve an abatement request from British Petroleum for a windmill energy farm in northern Young County. While meeting with attorney Alan Carmichael on Monday, commissioners discussed a way to get the most money for the county without derailing the proposed wind farm. Under the proposal from BP, the county would abate 75 percent of the taxes the first two years and see the figures drop through the 10-year abatement. ..."I want it to be competitive, but keep in mind this is British Petroleum, one of the 25 largest companies in the world, and they don't need a heck of a lot of help from us," Carmichael said. "But we do want this project to be completed."
The wind is free, but the cost of harnessing its power doesn't come cheaply. Each wind turbine can cost more than $1 million. Transporting the power from western Oklahoma to the population centers is even more expensive. Texas, for example, is investing almost $5 billion to create its own transmission system.
Opinions from those in attendance were wide ranging. Many said although they did not support wind turbines coming to Erath County, they wondered if they were not necessary evils if the United States was to gain energy independence. Stokes said Texas is currently first in the nation for wind energy production. Texas will reach full capacity in about five years - even without a single wind turbine in Erath. Others also wondered what would happen to their property rights neighbors signed a lease and they did not. Could companies use eminent domain to take possession of the land and put up a wind turbine? Attorney J. Mac Rust said companies could not claim eminent domain under those conditions. However, a company could claim eminent domain to run a transmission wire across land.
An environmental group may try to push the federal government to file a lawsuit against the state, arguing that it failed to stop developers from building a wind farm in Kenedy County, an attorney said Friday. Jim Blackburn, a Houston attorney who represents the Coastal Habitat Alliance, said the group had not decided whether it will appeal a judge's decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson, wind developers PPM Energy and Babcock & Brown and the Public Utility Commission.
A federal judge in Austin dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent further construction of two Kenedy County wind farm projects. The suit was filed in December by the Coastal Habitat Alliance, a nine-member environmental group that includes King Ranch, claiming the projects would cause irrevocable damage to the environment and birds. The alliance also filed a suit in state court that was dismissed earlier this year. The wind farm projects, by Australian-based Babcock and Brown Ltd. and Oregon-based Iberdrola Renewables, formerly PPM Energy, continued with site preparation and initial construction and erection of wind turbines
Babcock & Brown said that a federal court in Texas dismissed a lawsuit, clearing a path for the company to continue its plans for a wind farm on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Coastal Habitat Alliance filed suits related to the construction of two separate wind energy generation facilities, including the Babcock & Brown facility, in December 2007. The federal suit challenged the state's decision to allow the developments to be built without required environmental review and public comment and sought possible injunction against the Texas Land Commissioner, the commission and the developers of the two wind farms, PPM Energy and Babcock and Brown.
Nance Ranch has been home to everything from cattle to crops, but it could also be hosting wind turbines soon. The Texas A&M University System's board of regents in College Station voted Friday to allow West Texas A&M University to give wind developer Higher Power Energy an option to lease the ranch for a wind farm. Higher Power was one of two companies that responded to the school's request for proposals. WT's Alternative Energy Institute helped evaluate the responses to meet the school's expectations.
A lawsuit brought against the Taylor County Commissioners Court in April for granting what the plaintiff claims are illegal tax abatements to wind farms in the county was dropped Thursday with little fanfare. Tuscola resident Dale Rankin, an opponent of wind energy, filed the lawsuit in April alleging that wind energy equipment is not eligible for tax abatements under the state tax code. Rankin said he decided to "nonsuit," or essentially drop, the lawsuit because of what he called "procedural issues." However, he said he plans to refile the lawsuit.
The Peñascal Wind Farm in Kenedy County has its second customer, the South Texas Electric Cooperative, which will receive about a fourth of the power generated by the project. The cooperative recently signed a 15-year lease for 50 megawatts of energy from the wind farm, owned by Oregon-based Iberdrola Renewables, formerly PPM Energy. ...A key factor in the purchase of the power is that coastal winds blow on hot summer afternoons, peak electrical demand time in South Texas, said Michael Packard, general manager of the South Texas Electric Cooperative.
The more you learn about T. Boone Pickens' plan to switch America to wind power, the more you realize that he seems willing to say and do just about anything to make another billion or two. This column previously discussed the plan's technical and economic shortcomings and marketing ruses. Today, we'll look into the diabolical machinations behind it.
It won't happen overnight. Building those lines won't be quick or cheap. It's expected to be at least five years before the lines could be built and ready to flow with electricity. Construction costs could run $2 million per mile for large, high-capacity lines. Customers served by ERCOT, the power-grid operator for the majority of Texas' electric service, would pay the costs over several years through a fee estimated to be $4 on monthly electric bills.
Oncor Electric Delivery, the Dallas-based utility that provides the transmission lines that serve most of North Texas, said Thursday that it hopes to build more than 1,000 miles of the lines needed to carry wind power from West Texas to the rest of the state. Oncor is one of five big utilities that have formed a consortium that proposes to build all of the estimated 2,400 miles of transmission lines included in a $5 billion plan approved last week by the Public Utility Commission, which picked it among several options. The other partners in the consortium are Sharyland Utilities, LCRA Transmission Services Corp., American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings.
Julie Caruthers Parsley said Wednesday she will leave the Public Utility Commission on Sept. 2. Her resignation follows that of Commissioner Paul Hudson, who announced last month that he will step down from the three-member panel on Aug. 15. The commission makes decisions on electric and telecommunications policy. A week ago, Parsley dissented from a decision by Hudson and Chairman Barry Smitherman to build $5 billion in new transmission lines to bring power from wind farms in West Texas and the Panhandle to populated areas in north, central and southeast parts of the state.
The truth about wind generation is that without abatements and subsidies, it is more expensive than current generation. It also takes the same amount of backup generation to operate if the wind is not blowing. Pickens owns thousands of acres north of Pampa. Not one wind-generation unit is to be constructed on his property.
"Everything he is outlining in this plan will pad his already ample bank account," said Jerry Taylor, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who likened the plan to corporate welfare, since it calls for $1 trillion in government investment and an extension of tax credits for wind companies that are set to expire at the end of 2008. ...Ed Legge, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a Washington-based trade association for electric-utility companies, including Duke and Exelon, said he expects consumers to eventually get a reality check on wind's shortcomings. "You can't depend on wind," Mr. Legge said. "Our customers are trained to expect the power is available and on. An intermittent source is automatically problematic, and that's what wind is right now. Wind stops blowing."