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, the Houston Chronicle reported.
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.
One project is proposed for Long Island. The other is a 130-turbine project planned for Nantucket Sound, off Cape Cod.
Galveston Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Louisiana-based Wind Energy Systems Technologies, purchased the 30-year lease for $10,000 a year, for the first five years. Once production starts, somewhere between 2010 and 2012, the state will receive a minimum of $4.9 million in royalties. That figure will grow to at least $14.9 million in years 17 to 30, with all money going to a fund that pays for schools statewide.
By early next year, the company plans to erect two 260-foot-tall meteorological towers in the Gulf off Galveston to better assess wind speed, temperature, tides and the topography of the sea floor. The company also will study the project's potential impact on migratory birds — which likely will be its biggest stumbling block in Texas.