When John B. Billingsley was growing up on his family’s small cotton farm in West Texas, he witnessed the natural power of a wind-swept, sunny landscape.
In that rural environment, his family drew water from a well, and he bred pigs and sold the offspring. He even established the first paper route in the area selling and delivering the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But after college, Billingsley took a different path. He worked as an accountant, eventually going on to start and sell his own firm before buying and running a bank in Midland. That led to a path in commercial real estate.
In all, Billingsley would go on to start and run more than 17 companies. Fast forward 45 years, and it was time for him to retire.
His roots, however, kept calling.
During trips back home with his wife, Harriett, Billingsley once again noticed the vigor of renewable energy. This time though, he saw wind turbines scattered across the horizon—and a new chapter began to form when a developer approached him about leasing his family’s land for a proposed wind farm.
The lease was concerning, and Billingsley felt it wasn’t beneficial to the landowners. He garnered his experience across a myriad of industries and began to reimagine the business model.
And that’s when Tri Global Energy was born.
“The name comes from my vision to build a global energy leader relying on three energy sources: wind, solar and natural gas,” Billingsley says. “Through my study, I had become convinced that renewable energy was the future, and that wind was just one part of it.”
In 2009, at 69 years old, Billingsley began what is now a “defining chapter of his life.” His idea was to give landowners guaranteed royalties from the production of the wind farm, no matter if a turbine was placed on their land or not. Royalties would be distributed to all participants in the wind farm based on the pro-rata number of acres leased by each landowner.
Word quickly spread about the new venture—and Billinglsey’s innate connection to the land and farming community—and within five years Tri Global Energy would become one of the top 10 producers of wind power in the country.
“In under three years, we had 650,000-670,000 acres leased,” he says. “For comparison, the state of Rhode Island comprises 776,957 acres. In fact we had to curtail our leasing activity for a while to be sure we could manage everything.”
Today, Tri Global Energy says it has more than 30 utility-scale wind, solar, and energy storage projects in development or operation in Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. More than 3,000 landowners have participated in the generation of these wind farms. This has allowed for tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues to go to small communities throughout West Texas.
The fast growth enabled Billingsley to realize his vision for becoming a “multifaceted energy leader,” and in 2015 he launched Sunfinity Renewable Energy, a provider of residential and business solar energy.
“Once again, I felt the timing was right,” he says. “Solar isn’t new technology. It has been around for decades, but it was prohibitively expensive for most homeowners. However, like a lot of other technologies, the prices were steadily headed downward.”
The foundation for that company is that people and businesses can buy solar not just to make an environmental statement, but to save money on the cost of electricity. Sunfinity now designs and installs solar arrays for homeowners and the commercial and industrial markets.
And Billingsley was able to turn his experience in the renewable space into a book.
“Texas Wind Force” combines expert insights, detailed recounts of wind farm development, and illustrated facts about the industry. It’s a timely tale: Today, Billinglsey sees wind and solar energy as playing an ever-increasing role in America’s transition to clean energy. Last month, wind claimed the number one spot in total generation in Texas.
“With the Biden administration’s focus on clean energy, it seems that Earth Day 2021 represents a new era and new hope for renewable energy in America, and the countless benefits it delivers, from jobs to energy independence to a better environment,” Billingsley says. “Texas Wind Force reflects a vital era in American renewable energy and sets the stage for an even more significant decade to come.”
In celebration of Earth Day, Tri Global Energy and Sunfinity Renewable Energy are offering “Texas Wind Force” as a digital download on Amazon. The 149-page ebook will be available exclusively for free on Thursday, April 22.
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