T. Boone Pickens, Billionaire Booster of Wind Power, Cancels His Huge Windfarm

By Eliza Strickland | July 9, 2009 1:47 pm

PickensWhat a difference a year makes. In July 2008, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens offered up the “Pickens Plan” to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil by producing more electricity from huge wind farms, and running vehicles on natural gas instead of gasoline. To kick-start the transformation, Pickens announced that he would construct the biggest wind farm ever in Texas. Pickens announced that his company, Mesa Power LP, would order 687 wind turbines, or 1,000 megawatts of capacity, from GE for about $2 billion. By 2014, he expected to expand the Panhandle wind farm to 4,000 megawatts. That’s a massive amount of wind power. One nuclear power reactor is typically about 1,000 megawatts of capacity. Most wind farms offer only a few hundred megawatts [Dallas Morning News]. 

Now, one year later, Pickens has declared that he’s canceling the enormous Texas wind farm for the foreseeable future, and is scrambling to figure out where to place the 687 wind turbines that he already ordered. (He may end up establishing five or six small wind farms in the Midwest, Pickens suggested.) The project was largely done in by major problems with electricity transmission. Wind farms and other forms of clean energy are usually located in remote locations and require huge new transmission lines to carry the electricity to cities. Mr. Pickens initially hoped to finance the construction of his own transmission lines but was unable to secure funding [The Wall Street Journal].

Pickens’s decision to pull the plug on his ambitious project highlights the troubles faced by the wind power industry in general of late. With credit costlier and harder to come by, and oil and natural gas prices down sharply over the past year, the nation’s nascent wind industry may begin to focus on smaller projects that are closer to major population centers rather than massive developments like 81-year-old Pickens envisioned, industry officials said. “You’ve got an industry that is kind of hanging on by its fingernails,” said Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association [Reuters].

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Image: flickr / jurvetson

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • http://wheezardx.com Brad Hallisey

    I don’t believe this is entirely accurate. Pickens was interviewed on NPR last night and it sounded more like the project is delayed, not canceled. The inability to get credit being a major player.

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    He should just throw up one giant turbine in/near the 687 largest cities in America. Transmission problem: solved. Of course, might be more or less windy in some cities, but hey, it would be a start, right?

  • Jeff

    Maybe even 68 in each of the ten largest/windiest cities would be doable.

  • http://www.myreferenceframe.com/ My Reference Frame

    I agree with Brad: he’s bought the 687 windmills. He hasn’t cancelled anything. This happens on large infrastructure projects. Go to Las Vegas right now & take a look at the their City Center project. He may have cancelled the “huge” windfarm indeed but I don’t think he is giving up on the idea.

  • Brian

    Wind sounds like one of the better options for future energy sources. North America needs to get serious about alternate/greener energy, and some industrial scale implementations would help put a sock in the naysayers.

    Therefore I say: Go T.Boone!

  • http://deleted zachary

    Brian,
    “Future” the operative word. Wind farm is nowhere near advanced enough to be a major part of our energy supply. The problem with putting it in a windy place like Vegas is that it’s the wrong type of windy. Gusts of wind will kill turbines quickly, need steady lower-speed wind. I think wind, along with other greener alternatives such as solar and geo-thermal, will be a great supplement depending on the availability; i.e. Arizona and New Mexico can use solar as a viable option. Yet the backbone of any new power grid has to be powerful, consistent in both supply and price, and available fairly soon. Say hello to your nuclear future.

  • john doerksen

    T Boone Pickens is no dummy when it comes to energy. Wind turbine energy is an absolute farce and “T-Bone” finally recognized that fact.

  • Sheldon

    I think it’s simple. It’s about money. Pickens tried to get ahead of the curve by investing his sizable fortune in the future. He’s ridden it down to sizable loss. Canceling his GE order is an indication of not putting good money after bad. The future isn’t quite her yet and Pickens isn’t getting any younger.

  • Chas4604

    I’ll bet the birds are happy

  • http://www.vivzizi.com geo

    “wind turbine energy is an absolute farce”

    Huh?

    uh it’s being successfully deployed all over the world.

    LA has had a huge windfarm in the palm springs pass for over 10 years.

    You are an idiot.

  • zach

    Successfully deployed is far different from being a major source of power. It can make sense on a small scale, but enormous wind farms are ridiculous when compared to other generators.

  • http://web.mac.com/helgav/Golden_Spike_Rabbitry/Homepage/Homepage.html Helga Vierich-Drever

    There are new forms of wind power being developed that are a kind of upright spiral floated on a large magnet, so resistance is almost completely gone, even a tiny gust of wind sets the thing in motion. These are the kind of things you can put on your roof. Just google it, it’s being done. In Germany they subsidized solar panels on residential roofs and the solar field has taken off like a rocket. Personally I think this is the way to go.. then, by 2030 we could have been scavenging all these useless transmission lines for the metal and the wire. Things are damned ugly anyway. However the USA gov’t chose to bail out banks making loads of money instead, and is now bankrupt. It is really sad. Well with luck, the future will see a shift to household self-sufficiency that will be based in rural life. We might even have civilization, of some sort. You don’t need industry and a stock market to have civilization, in fact it appears to be a positively toxic basis for a civilization.

    If we have a future life. See: Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet http://tinyurl.com/nfaquy by Mark Lynas, and hold on to your hat.

  • zach

    You don’t see something odd about deriding the civilization that created the technology you want to use to end that very civilization? You need industry and a stock market for continued discovery.

  • http://Discover WindKnowledge

    T. Boone Pickens has already purchased 687 turbines and they WILL go up into the air. Just not all in the same place. That is for the ones that can’t read and don’t have a clue about what the’re talking about. Wind is not a business that is hanging on by it’s fingernails. It’s triving as much as ever. I’ve been in the wind energy business for years, and the nut that says that “enormous wind farms are ridiculous” does not realize that every bit of energy that is produced by green methods saves on energy being produced by fossil fuels. And that alone is a plus in helping to save the environment. If America keeps pushing green energy, in ten years, we may only be using half of what we currently are using in fossil fuels to produce power. And as far as the birds being happy, I have never seen ANY dead birds around ANY turbine ANYwhere. Who ever said wind turbines kill birds is a bird brain. Wind turbines are not silent and make quite a bit of noise when running. That keeps most birds away. Those that are not afraid of the sound would have to be blind and deaf to actually fly into one. In that case, they ought not be flying in the first place. People have all these comments and fail to see their number one problem. They think they’re smarter than they actually are.

  • George Jetson

    Some industries are not content with polluting our nation. They hire scum like “Zach” to pollute the internet as well.

  • Hans-Armin Ohlmann

    Please kindly provide an e-mail address, where I can send informtion on my unique wind turbine to Mr. Pickens. I am convinced, that he would like to lern about it, since it could revolutionize the now previling wind farm concept. My twin rotor vertical axis turbine uses only 25% of land/area for the sme power output and its logistics re much simpler. It can operate in a wider range of wind speeds and its annual yield (KWHs) will be higher than this of the now prevailing 3-blade HAWERCs.
    Thank you for your valuable assistance in advance.
    Best regards

    OHA

  • http://None Mackey

    I now less about wind energy than I did before I read your Website. More politics.

  • http://N/A Ken Hungerford

    When are people going to realise that while wind and solar are part of an answer to energy production, the way they are being touted today is little short of an absolute scam. You only need to look at the problems associated with wind in Scandanavian countries to see how useless wind is – take a look at the two so-called champions, namely Findland and Norway.

  • Mike

    Wind farms cost about $2000/kw to install, run a at a capcity factor of 20-30%, can’t produce power on demand and have unstable induction generators. The only reason they are installed is because of federal subsidies and state mandates. For every MW of wind you need a MW of reliable capacity to back it up. All the wind generator capital equipment is pretty much built overseas. If we are going to subsidize this with our tax dollars and mandate much higher electric rates (hidden tax) we should at least mandate all the towers, blades, generators and electrical equipment should be mandated to be built in the US. California banned coal and have some of the highest electric rates in the country even though they import about 25-30% of their power which is mainly nuclear or coal. I do like the idea of using NG to power cars. It is also a good use for power generation but it would be a mistake to rely on it. My opinion 30% nuclear, 30% NG, 30% coal, 10% renewables. Don’t use oil to generate power.

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