If all goes as planned, Jasper County commissioners will meet in public session in Houston next week with BP (British Petroleum) officials to discuss wind generation in Pecos County.
Why Jasper is involved in energy production in far west Texas is a long story.
Jasper is one of very few Texas counties that has retained school land in far west Texas. In 1839 President Mirabeau Lamar deeded three leagues of land to each county in Texas for support of public schools.
Most counties have since sold their lands, but Jasper has retained much of the land allotted them. For years, the county has accepted money for deer leases and grazing rights and used that income pay for education, as Lamar intended.
Windy west Texas is now a hotbed of companies trying to take advantage of energy incentives to develop wind farms. The Texas wind energy data base lists almost 30 companies who are in production, and seven more projects are proposed.
Jasper County has partnered with Pecos Renewable Energy to explore the possibilities of developing wind farms on the school lands.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Charles Shofner reported that preliminary tests of wind capacity at the site have been promising.
The hurdle still to be overcome, according to Shofner, is transmission lines. Without sufficient lines to transmit the energy produced, it doesn’t matter how strong the wind blows.
County officials are concerned that BP is using Jasper lands without permission to access adjacent property that BP plans to develop for wind generation.
Pecos Energy is asking for Jasper County to extend their development lease for another two years. Meanwhile, BP has also approached the county.
Ken Williams of Pecos Renewable Energy warned the commissioners, “Obviously they (BP) are more interested in developing their own land… and if you grant them access, that’s all they want.”
Commissioners want to ensure that Jasper land is developed and has an opportunity to secure what is likely to be limited, competitive access to new transmission lines brought into the area.
Williams told commissioners he was concerned, “If we don’t get in line, BP will take as much as they can… but we can use access across our land to hold their feet to the fire.”
County Judge Mark Allen pointed out that regardless of the county’s decision on whether to renew Pecos Energy’s contract, the county needs to address access with BP.
Allen said failing to address the issue now could lead to a case of “implied consent” that could have repercussions in future development and contract negotiations.
“We need to make sure no one has free unimpeded access on our land,” Allen said.
Williams said the royalties Pecos Energy will pay on electricity would be similar to what BP would offer, but that Pecos is more motivated to develop the land for Jasper’s benefit.
“We want the same things you want,” Williams told the court.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Willie Stark, who has met with BP before, said, “I agree with that.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Roy Parker asked Pecos Energy if contract milestones have been met in the first three years of their contract.
Williams reported that wind assessments have been done, but a site assessment by experts to locate turbines has not been done.
He explained that until the size and allotment of transmission capacity is determined, they can’t know what size turbines to plan for and locate.
“Major investment houses and the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) are looking at capacity and taking electricity from these sites to a major grid,” Williams said.
Three commissioners, Shofner, Parker and Stark, plan to visit with BP July 31 if possible to test the energy giant’s intentions.
Any time a quorum, (three or more) meet to discuss county business, it must be posted in advance as a public meeting.
By Sharon Kerr
25 July 2007
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