Texas Fighting to Be First on Offshore Wind
There’s been a lot of talk about the so-called clean energy race between the United States and China. But there’s a home-grown energy race brewing that has garnered far less attention.
In lane one you’ve got the federal government, which announced this week that it signed the first lease for an offshore wind project — Cape Wind in Massachusetts — in federal waters. While the lease is signed, it may take years to build the turbines and secure finale approvals. In lane two you’ve got Texas, which is the one state that is allowed to circumvent federal regulatory approvals if wind projects are built within 10.3 miles off the state’s coast.
If you talk to regulators in Texas, they’ll be more than happy to point out that they’ve already signed eight leases for offshore wind projects. On top of that, they’re hoping one of those projects, which is owned by CenterPoint Energy, will be up and running within a year.
And make no bones about it: Texas wants to be the first. Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, the regulatory authority in charge of permitting wind projects, puts it this way: “Well, we’re Texas, of course we want to be first. We said we’d be first five years ago and we still think we’ll be first.”
He continues: “We’re number one on onshore wind and we expect that we’ll be first on offshore wind because we’re easy to do business with,” noting that efforts to approve Cape Wind were mired in years of regulatory delay.
Suydam says Texas wants to create a regulatory environment that is friendly to wind, for example charging companies less for the lease in hopes of reaping the benefits of production down the road. “In Texas, this is a money issue for us,” he says. “Oil and gas has been very, very good for Texas. We’re still making tons of money off of oil and natural gas, but we realize those are depletable resources. We’re not crunchy hippies, we’re doing it for money. And that’s why it’s going to work.”