THE GULF COAST RECOVERY
Phase two of the project will involve the installation of about 50 turbines, at a cost projected to be as high as $300 million, in order to produce the expected 150 megawatts of power — enough to power about 40,000 homes. Finally, phase three will be a 30-year production phase, during which W.E.S.T. will pay the land office a 3.5 percent royalty from the farm's total production through the first eight years. The royalty escalates to 4.5 percent through year 16 and 5.5 percent through year 30 after that.
The land office has already seen success from its renewable push: A wind farm in the Delaware Mountains of Culberson County in west Texas has yielded more than $782,000 in royalties since the mind-1990s and is expected to generate some $3 million over the course of its 25-year lease. The push is also part of a larger state goal signed into law in 2004 that aims to generate 10,000 megawatts from renewable sources by 2025. The state's current renewable portfolio stands at 2,000 megawatts.
"Wind power is clean and inexhaustible," said Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, in October. "Wind power reduces our nation's dependence on imported oil and gas. Wind power is inflation proof ... This is the right step for Texas and the nation."
Jim Suydam, spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, says that despite the planning head start that the East Coast has for wind farms, "we will have the first windmills built, because the same attitude that's allowed so much oil and gas off our coast is what will allow wind to come here too."
The lack of federal entanglements that Sam Houston negotiated certainly helps that attitude, but so does a more recent development. While oil and gas money has always gone into the state's Permanent School Fund, the Texas Legislature recently allowed the land office to keep some of that money (up to $253 million a year) in escrow, then invest it in real estate. "We've done well so far," says Suydam. "We just completed our new plan for this money, and we'll be hiring funds managers to invest the capital for us.
In fiscal year 2005, the Permanent School Fund received more than $457 million from the land office. In late October, the fund's worth stood at about $20.7 billion. More than a quarter of its 15 million surface and mineral acres (6 million hectares) are submerged.
"This is a substantial change historically," Suydam notes, adding that while the state still reaps plenty from the oil industry's leases, "it won't be our sugar daddy anymore ... it's time to look forward."
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