The war between the oil and gas industry and renewables has been raging for years—but this time the battle is a literal one, over land.
This particular dispute is between Midway Solar—which has leased hundreds of acres of land in Pecos County, Texas—and two people who own the mineral rights to that land.
But the dispute is merely a precursor to future battles between sprawling solar arrays and what lies beneath. According to the Houston Chronicle, this case could end up in the top court in Texas, setting a precedent for any future legal battles in the same vein.
The conflict is simple: solar arrays take up a vast amount of space. While a land owner—a surface land owner, that is—can lease its land, like in this case, to a solar energy company for the purposes of putting in a massive solar array, someone owns the mineral rights to that land.
And it’s not always the same person that owns the surface.
Unfortunately for solar companies, mineral rights almost always trump surface rights—especially in the heart of oil country.
In this case, two people inherited the mineral rights to this Pecos County land back in the ‘40s. They are now arguing that a solar array would occupy so much land that it would make it impossible for them to lease the mineral rights to an oil and gas company for extraction.
Solar power is definitely making inroads in Texas, although wind power is more dominant there—and it takes up less land space. This smaller intrusion makes it much less likely to butt heads with would-be oil drillers, meaning that wind companies and oil companies are less likely to find themselves facing off in court.
Solar power, on the other hand, is a sprawling mass of arrays that sucks up more land than oil or wind. As the energy transition progresses and cries for more renewable power are answered, it will be interesting to see if oil remains the victor in future battles.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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