Pickens begins signing up landowners for project, won't have 'ugly' turbines on his ranch
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Mesa Energy officials are starting to sign landowners up for their new wind energy project.
“We’re getting down here to the point where we have to fish or cut bait,” Boone Pickens told a packed crowd in the Heritage Room of M.K. Brown Civic Center Thursday. “If you want to sell wind and sign up with us, you’ve got to know now the best deal you are going to get on wind is going to be with us. I promise you that is the case.”
Pickens, a Roberts County rancher and Dallas businessman, created Mesa Energy to build a 4,000-megawatt wind farm in northern Gray County and southern Roberts County. In addition to the wind farm, Mesa plans a 750-megawatt coal-fired plant to supply energy when the wind isn’t blowing and a 600-megawatt natural gas-fired plant to handle peak loads.
In addition to the generation facilities, Mesa plans a 320-mile transmission line to the Dallas area to tap the fast-growing urban markets of North Texas.
“There’s not going to be many people that are going to be able to take the power out of the Panhandle and move it downstate,” Pickens said. “It’s going to be a huge project.”
The total project, he said, will produce about 5,000 megawatts at a cost of about $10.5 billion.
“That’s pretty good-sized for a Roberts County guy,” Pickens said.
With regulatory approval by 2009, Mesa officials hope to start construction in 2010.
Although no royalties will be paid until the project is complete and the turbines are generating power to be sold, Lila Marsh, a Dallas lawyer representing Mesa Energy, said Mesa was offering four dollars per acre upfront to landowners willing to sign up with the company.
Although sites will have to be worked out and the revenue will fluctuate with energy prices, Adam Talianchich with Austin-based JD Consultants, an environmental consulting firm that’s been hired by Mesa Energy to design and implement the project, estimates that depending upon the size and number of turbines royalties could be from $50,000 to $80,000 a year.
The project will create a lot of jobs in the area, he said. Once the project is set up and running, Pickens estimates that there will be about 1,000 additional permanent jobs in the area, and that doesn’t count the coal-fired or natural gas-fired power plants or the construction project.
Talianchich said the world’s two largest wind farms at the moment are in Texas. Both are near Abilene and one produces 735 megawatts. The other will produce 580 megawatts when an expansion phase is finished later this year.
Mesa’s project is roughly 5.5 times larger than the largest wind farm.
For those landowners that packed the civic center meeting room here, Pickens warned them about whom they deal with when it comes to leases for wind turbines.
“They’re going to have to get into transmission,” Pickens said.
The project is huge and the people involved are going to have to deal with not only the wind farms but also getting the electricity to market.
“We’re going to get you signed up to let us know,” Pickens said. “If you don’t want it, we don’t want it.”
This is the second meeting with area landowners that Pickens has hosted concerning wind energy. He held a meeting at Pampa Country Club earlier this summer.
“I’m not having any turbines on my ranch,” Pickens said candidly. “I think they’re ugly is the reason I won’t have any.”
But he said he has neighbors who’ve told him that they may be ugly to him, but the turbines look like money to his neighbors.
“You’re going to have turbines in the Panhandle,” Pickens said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that, but we need to know whether you want to do business with us or not. If we don’t have enough people who want to do business with us, we won’t do the job.”
By David Bowser
24 August 2007
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