Plans to build thousands of miles of transmission lines to support wind power in Texas is generating attention across the country and growing opposition from parts of the state that will be most affected by the lines. The state approved in 2008 the $5 billion network of transmission lines in an effort to get the wind energy from where it is generated to where it is needed.
The plans call for 2,334 miles of transmission lines encompassing 56,581 acres of land, most of it in rural and agricultural parts of the state.
The effort has drawn praise from renewable energy advocates across the country but not so much from landowners in the path of the power lines. Denton County recently passed a resolution opposing construction of a big new transmission line through the county. A group called Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment has formed to oppose the routes through that part of the state. A similar group has formed in the Panhandle.
The Lower Colorado River Authority decided in August to suspend indefinitely plans to construct new lines from Gillespie County to Lampasas County. Plans to build lines from Brown County to the west end of Kempner are still on the books.
Judon Fambrough with the Texas Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and attorney Glen Webb of Abilene are in the process of conducting half dozen seminars across the state under the sponsorship of the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Webb gives an overall view of the process followed by Fambrough’s presentation on negotiating easements.
“Too many people focus on the amount of the payment and not enough on the property rights being taken,” Fambrough said recently in Lampasas. “If you haven’t properly negotiated the terms, you may be getting underpaid.”
The next seminar is slated for Oct. 8 at the Guadalupe Basin Natural Resources Center in Kerrville. Cleburne will host a seminar at Johnson County Cattle Auction on Oct. 13. Both of those seminars are scheduled from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The final seminar is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Texas AgriLife Research Center in Lubbock from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
The Texas Legislature directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a plan to build the lines, which is called the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ). Eight new routes have been approved and others are in the planning process.
State government policy mandated by the Texas legislature requires electricity providers to generate 2,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy based on their market share of energy sales times the Renewable Portfolio Standard, a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources.
Senate Bill 20, which the state legislature passed in 2005, directed the PUC to select the most productive wind zones in the state and devise a transmission plan to move power generated from these zones to various populated areas in the state.
Fambrough said there are many issues associated with construction of these lines that landowners may not consider when negotiating an easement, including the spread of tree diseases and the presence of firefighting crews during construction.
He added that the condemor may not agree to all the terms set by a landowner, but that landowners should make it a point to protect as many property rights as possible when negotiating an easement.
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