Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Texas to Harness Off-Shore Wind Power

"This could be the Spindletop of this century," said General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
Texas is leading the way by becoming the first state to allow an off-shore wind power system. The Houston Chronicle has the most comprehensive report on the subject.

Paving the way for Texas to be home to the first wind farm along the U.S. coast, the state has leased an 11,000-acre swath of the Gulf of Mexico, seven miles off Galveston Island, for gigantic wind turbines that could eventually power 40,000 homes and generate millions of dollars for state schools.

The lease, the first granted by any government agency in the nation for an offshore wind project, marks a new era of pollution-free energy production for the Gulf, which for decades has been the site of thousands of wells and platforms tapping the Earth's depths for air-polluting natural gas and oil.

It also signals the migration of Texas' wind industry which ranks second in the nation behind California in kilowatt hours produced by breezes and gusts from the Panhandle and western parts of the state to the coast, where winds are more consistent during peak daylight hours and large population centers such as Houston aren't as far away.

Though I'm thrilled with this development, my first thought was "Texas?" I was sure that another state would have jumped on this environmentally friendly energy source before the gas lovin' & guzzlin' government of Texas.

President Herman Schellstede said he chose Texas to avoid delays. Louisiana, his first choice, had no experience with transmitting and building wind infrastructure, he said, and what entity would have jurisdiction over federal waters where he wanted to build was unclear until the energy bill was passed in July, putting the Mineral Management Service in charge of offshore wind projects.

The government of Texas only meets every two years to set rules and policy. Political Science professors will claim this is an "elitist" type of government, lacking in true representation. But here were have a classic example of my government providing low-cost power for it's citizens and earning the state millions in royalty funds for education.

Texas claims jurisdiction over it's waters up to 10 miles off the coast. Other states only claim up to 3 miles off the coast and after that, federal government rules and red tape kick in. I believe this policy was set back when we were our own nation and we've refused to change it ever since.

But it's not only red tape that's hindering wind rig projects in other states. Here's a quick look at an earlier 2001 wind rig project from the Boston Globe.

Officials say the proposed $300 million project in Texas should go more smoothly than plans for a wind farm proposed off Massachusetts. That project has been delayed by local residents, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy and former CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite.

''This is Texas. We don't have Walter Cronkite and Ted Kennedy whining about their backyards," Patterson said.

Two other offshore wind turbine farms have been proposed along the US coast, one about 4 miles off the south shore of New York's Long Island, and one in Nantucket Sound, off Cape Cod. The New York project is awaiting approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Nantucket project, also in federally controlled waters, faces opposition because of fears that it would ruin the ocean view from the shore.

So who's the elitist here? I know a couple of whiners with yachts that refuse to accept reality. We can see some rigs and boats from the shoreline in Galveston all the time. The only reason I know what those tiny gray dots on the horizon are is because my mother told me when I was a kid. Here's Texas' response to this devestating problem:
Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and longtime advocate for the Texas coast, called the destruction of views a "nonissue"

Your loss = our gain.

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