AUSTIN — Nearly four years ago, the Texas General Land Office signed the nation's first ever lease for offshore wind power.
Since then, major hurricanes and economic storms have blown away plans to have turbines up and running by now. But that doesn't mean we're not earning real money.
After all, that's what my drive to develop renewable energy on state lands is all about. For Texas, renewable energy means renewable revenue.
Oil and gas have been very good to Texas. Over the years, the Texas General Land Office has put more than $12 billion into the state's Permanent School Fund from oil and gas leases - more than $3.7 billion of that has come from production in the Gulf of Mexico.
That's money for schools that doesn't come from the taxpayer's pocket.
But oil and gas are resources that - someday - will be depleted. We're making more than ever off oil and gas right now, but it's no secret that oil production in Texas peaked in the 1970s.
As Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, it's my job to figure out how to replace that vital revenue stream before it's gone. Developing wind and geothermal power in the gulf is part of that solution.
Right now, the Texas General Land Office currently leases almost a quarter million offshore and nearshore acres for wind and geothermal development.
Regardless of any delays, the Texas General Land Office has earned the school children of Texas $451,932.89 on wind leases that haven't produced a watt of energy.
The real money, of course, will come in once turbines are up and begin to spin. Just like with oil and gas, Texas school kids will earn a percentage of every bit of energy produced by offshore wind out to 10.3 miles from the Texas coast.
I'm confident the Texas General Land Office will make that day come sooner rather than later.
Sustainable energy sources such as wind, geothermal and solar power will only become a viable part of our nation's energy portfolio if they make dollars, not just sense. And I'm proud to say Texas is leading the way toward that future.
Wind power's remarkable growth in Texas isn't because of protests and rallies. It's about money. And that's the kind of green we can all celebrate.
JERRY PATTERSON was elected Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office in 2002 and again in 2006. A former Marine and Vietnam Veteran, Patterson is the author of Senate Bill 60, the Concealed Handgun Law.