Emissions, Renewables, Wind

General land office “wind rush” under way

AUSTIN, Oct. 24, 2003 — By April 2004, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) will have leases available for wind power generation, or exploration, on state-owned lands. That’s the announcement made Thursday by Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.

“The ‘open for wind business’ sign is on our door,” said Patterson during a press conference at the GLO’s 10th Annual Border Energy Forum in Austin. “The oldest state agency will once again be a pioneer of land initiatives, while finding a new revenue source for the Permanent School Fund.”

This initiative is the starting gun for a 21st Century Wind Rush, where “wind prospectors” will have the chance to lease land to develop wind power. The Land Office hopes to create an arena for businesses to step in with existing technology and potentially expand new technologies just coming into the wind energy marketplace. Ultimately, Patterson sees this “wind rush” as a catalyst to spur the construction of wind power facilities in prime wind areas like far West Texas or along the Gulf coast.

“In five years, I think we are going to be doing a lot of wind business,” Patterson said. “But we can’t wait five years to start — we’ve got to start now.”

As part of the GLO’s responsibility to make money for the Permanent School Fund (PSF), Patterson plans to open the doors for bidding on leases of state land tracts for the purpose of wind power generation or exploration. The wind lease process will emulate a proven system — the GLO’s minerals leasing program.

As charged by the Texas Constitution, the Land Office is responsible for making money for the PSF. By maximizing assets on state lands such as oil, gas, and now wind, the GLO has helped the PSF grow in value to about $18 billion. As of October 2003, the PSF pays more than $700 million a year toward the education of Texas’ schoolchildren. Patterson believes that wind power should be fully utilized, as it is an endless source of energy and revenue for the schoolchildren of Texas.

The PSF is a key to this initiative, because any profit the Land Office makes will go to the schoolchildren of Texas.

“Land leases for wind development are cutting-edge, and the GLO hopes that businesses will step up to the plate and use new ideas and technology to make this a reality,” Patterson said. “Because we’ve got a proven track record with our Minerals Leasing program, the power industry knows we can make this work.”

The most promise for new wind development is along the 367 miles of Texas Gulf Coast.

Demand for wind production along the coast is rising. Transmission constraints to wind-rich areas in far West Texas have hindered wind power companies’ efforts to move electricity to customers. Coastal wind production would be an ideal alternative.

“We think that wind businesses will see the one-stop-shopping advantage that only the GLO can offer. We can handle your land lease, we can take your product to market, or we can take your payment as a royalty. All of this will generate an innovative revenue source to the Permanent School Fund,” Patterson said. “Furthermore, with coastal wind development there would be only one landowner for a lessee to deal with — the State of Texas.”

Texas enjoys some unique advantages for wind production along its coast. The Gulf of Mexico is much more shallow than coastal waters of other states. Also, since Texas owns the submerged land out to 10.3 statute miles in the Gulf, developers could deal with one landowner, versus many. And oil and gas production platforms already built along the Texas coast — many of which are now abandoned — could be revived and used to make power with wind.

At the commissioner’s direction, staff of the GLO’s Energy Resources Division have begun the process of mapping tracts of land, which will become available for lease nomination. The process will mirror the process by which the Land Office conducts lease sales for oil and gas production and exploration. Staff is also currently working on creating the lease applications that will be used, as well as working to include language within the program that adheres to terms and conditions within Texas code.

In preparation for a lease sale next April, staff will work to develop maps of available tracts. Once those tracts have been identified, staff will assess minimum bid price, or minimum value, to the tracts using criteria such as wind classification or proximity to transmission lines. The School Land Board will then have to approve the tracts for lease before notices for bid will be published in news publications and a sealed-bid lease sale takes place.

The announcement is a landmark event in state government’s involvement in the promotion of clean, sustainable energy. It brings specificity to Patterson’s Plan for Sustainable Energy, which he announced in April on Earth Day. The plan features a series of achievable, commonsense goals to boost the state’s sustainable energy output, with special focus on wind power.

For details on leasing state tracts for wind power generation, or exploration, please call Richard Bone at (512) 475-1525, or Adan Martinez at (512) 463-7250. For more information on Patterson’s Sustainable Energy Plan, including a Texas wind classification map, visit www.glo.state.tx.us/wind.