Local Wind Expert to Speak on Environmental Stewardship at National Wind Power Conference

May 22nd, 2002  |  Published in Press Releases

Local Wind Expert to Speak on Environmental Stewardship at National Wind Power Conference

AUSTIN, TX – May 22, 2002– For 25 years, Lubbock native Randy Sowell managed farms and ranches in West Texas and the Hill Country. But for the past two years, he has worked as a land manager for Cielo Wind Power to develop wind power projects and to help farmers and ranchers get involved in the industry. He will share his expertise June 5 at WINDPOWER 2002 in Portland, Oregon, the national wind energy conference sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Because the wind industry in Texas is relatively new, Sowell has seen the industry develop from the ground up. “I’ve seen different attitudes from wind energy developers. Some wind developers come into an area like conquistadors and have the attitude that they’re buying people out. What they don’t realize is that most people don’t care how rich or powerful they are – the project isn’t going to happen if the developer isn’t neighborly.”

Sowell’s “Principles of Wind Ranching” presentation will encourage wind power developers to consider environmental stewardship when they work with landowners and ranchers. WINDPOWER 2002 is expected to attract more than 1500 people involved with the wind industry.

“The wind industry needs to form an alliance with the agricultural community and set a higher standard of environmental stewardship than the petroleum industry established,” said Sowell. “In many cases, people we work with on wind sites have had bad experiences when leasing their mineral rights. We want to be sure their land is respected and cared for if they choose to work with us on a wind project.”

Sowell has personal experience managing land interests during a construction project. “I operated a sizeable ranch on the Colorado River throughout the 1980s. During my tenure there, a large reservoir project affected about a third of that ranch,” said Sowell. “The roads, utility lines and fencing system were all drastically altered over a two-year period. I learned first-hand what kind of damage a large construction project can do to an agricultural operation.”

Those memories have guided Sowell’s attitude toward managing the development of Cielo Wind Ranches™. “Understanding the concerns of landowners and acting to protect landowner interests has helped Cielo avoid many potential conflicts,” said Sowell. “A completed wind facility that is both clean and re-vegetated becomes an impressive demonstration site for both agriculturalists and environmentalists.”

Sowell advocates creating development restrictions that protect the land for ranching and farming, as well as designating a liaison from the development company to strengthen communication between the landowners and the construction crews. “Some landowners feel comfortable working directly with the contractors, while others feel more comfortable going through the developer,” said Sowell. “By offering landowners the option to communicate through the developer, they can avoid any direct confrontation with crews on the ground.”

A liaison with the development company should make regular visits to the construction site to ensure that the contractors are staying within the easements and keeping the site free of trash and construction debris. “It’s important to make people feel comfortable and reassured that the wind power project will add value to their land, not damage it,” said Sowell.

In addition to speaking at the AWEA Conference in June, Sowell will speak at the POWER-GEN Conference in Orlando, Florida in December. With more than 20,000 attendees in 2001, POWER-GEN is the largest power event in the world. Sowell appeared recently on the cover of Systemes Solaires, a European renewable energy magazine that profiled wind power developments in Texas.