CLAUDE – About 125 people met Wednesday to get a look inside the wind power business and hear about future prospects.
It has almost become like a gold rush,” said Sherry Kunka, Xcel Energy project director. “We have a long waiting list of developers seeking transmission access.”
James Wester, an attorney specializing in wind issues at the Underwood Law Firm, was equally optimistic.
“If things go as they’re planned to, I think it has the potential to be bigger than oil and gas have been here,” he said.
Some of the benefits include local economic development, reduction in the use of coal and natural gas and water conservation. A 3-megawatt wind turbine can save up to 2,000 gallons of water per hour by replacing an equal amount of steam generation, Kunka said.
State Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, told the landowners they could be contacted for wind leases by three types of businesses. One category is aggregators who lease the land but make deals with other businesses who do the actual construction. The second are developers who lease the land, develop the wind farm and then sell it to another company to operate it. The third is “the whole enchilada,” he said.
The future of wind development depends on transmission lines that need to be built to take the power where it is needed because local needs are filled. One transmission plan would be just for wind energy headed for the rest of Texas. Another would take it to the grid that serves the eastern U.S.
When Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Roderic Bremby denied an air permit for two large coal generators near Dodge City, Kan., on Oct. 18, he may have put up a roadblock for sending power east, said Bob Bryant, president and general manager of Golden Spread Electric Cooperative.
Golden Spread’s contract to buy some of its power from Xcel Energy expires in 2012, and it hoped to substitute electricity from the Kansas plants. The plan called for a new transmission line that would be part of a system that could also take Panhandle power to the east. If the Kansas plants aren’t saved, a planned “transmission superhighway” would move at least 100 miles north, away from the wind transmission.
“It’s a serious economic development issue,” Bryant said.
It took about six years for Oldham County to get some economic development from its wind. The Wildorado Wind Ranch began generation this year after all the planning and deal making.
While governments in the Abilene area were offering 60 to 70 percent tax abatements, Oldham offered 100 percent for 10 years, said County Judge Donnie Allred. In exchange, wind ranch owner Edison Mission pays $160,000 per year in place of taxes. It translates into a 16 percent increase in the $1 million the county collects.
“That makes it our largest revenue source,” Allred said.
As far as landowners, the revenue depends on the lease contract that could bind them to a wind company for up to 40 years. The option period when developers test the wind and locations on a property can last two to six years, Wester said. The time when the wind farm is operating can last from two to four decades.
By Kevin Welch
25 October 2007
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