Former Texas Oilman Pursues World's Largest Wind Farm

T. Boone Pickens, who made his fortune from oil, is pumping a lot of green into wind power.

| May 28, 2008

Wind power beats oil

Oil was the past, wind is the future. That's the thinking of famous oilman T. Boone Pickens, who is investing $10 billion to build the world's largest wind farm near Pampa, Texas.


General Electric (GE) announced on May 15 that it has received an order for 667 of its 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbines from Mesa Power LLP, a company founded by billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Pickens, a former Texas oilman and founder of BP Capital, an energy investment firm, launched Mesa Power to build the world's largest wind power plant, called the Pampa Wind Project.

The 4,000-MW facility will be located near Pampa, Texas, which is northeast of Amarillo on the Texas panhandle, and will stretch to the east, spanning five counties. Mesa Power's current order for wind turbines — the world's largest wind turbine order for a single location — will provide 1,000 MW of wind power capacity for the $2 billion first phase of the project, which will be online by early 2011. Currently, the largest U.S. wind plant has a capacity of 736 MW.

In August 2007, Mesa Power filed documents for the Pampa Wind Project with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and awarded a contract to Burns & McDonnell to provide initial development and conceptual engineering support for the facility. The company plans to complete all four phases of the $10 billion project by 2014. According to GE, an economic impact study has found that the project will generate 1,500 jobs during its construction phase and support about 720 jobs during its operation. While operating, the project is expected to pay local landowners a total of $65.3 million per year to lease their land for wind power production.

The Pampa Wind Project will depend heavily on the state's creation of "Competitive Renewable Energy Zones" (CREZs), which will be linked to the grid by new transmission lines. Last year, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas issued an interim final order that designated five CREZs, including the future site of the Pampa Wind Project (designated as the Panhandle "B" wind zone). In response, ERCOT released a study in April that places the cost of the transmission lines at $2.95 to $6.38 billion. The Wind Coalition says the proposed improvements would save consumers more than $3 billion in annual energy costs. The PUC is expected to finalize its order soon, thereby authorizing the development of the new transmission lines.

Update: T. Boone Pickens has launched an aggressive campaign and plan to kick America's dependence on foreign oil. Click here to learn more.

Reprinted from EERE Network News, a free newsletter of the U.S. Department of Energy. 

For more information, read Texas Oil Tycoon Tackles Renewable Energy, from Fast Company magazine.

12/26/2008 5:22:26 AM

What about the transmission costs? I think a 50/50 vendor/tax payer relationship makes sense. The reality is the wind locations for big Mega Wind Farms as proposed by Pickens are not close to big urban areas, so transmission power losses must be factored in by governments and compared versus producing clean power close to the source of use. So a measured response and and follow on investment by governments is warranted for both approaches so as to maximize taxpayer value, which should be fair electricity prices coming from clean sources. We all know that Mega Projects are not as efficient capital investments as we are often told to believe, and often such projects are really big magnets for complex government and business practices which foster and lead to misuse of taxpayer funds and sometimes attract corruption. The Pickens proposal has good merit, I just hope those commercial, political and government parties engaged in such Mega Projects are vigilant and can avoid Mega Project over budget spending, a phenomena of Mega Projects which always ends up with the tax payer bearing most of the burden. Also while this is a good article, I would really like to see the editors of MotherEarth News return to their "roots" a bit more regarding electricity production and publish more articles on what more can be done in the community to produce electricity at the source of use. Such a theme does produce local jobs and support the local small economy at the same time, and such activity really is the key component of the big job producing engine politicians seek, no matter where you live. For example, an earlier article on the value of Darrieus VAWTs could have been better sourced and also researched with a focus on untapped potential of the Darrieus instead of the "betacam vs VHS" approach used by the author which does service to no one. During the early part of my life, MotherEarth News was always a source of inspiration to

10/12/2008 10:03:01 AM

T. Boone Pickens is right on this issue. But I would go to ANY other source than him. This reprehensible slime bucket was the money behind the Swift Boat Liars for Bush. He can kiss my butt.

10/4/2008 1:30:15 PM

The Pickens Plan offers us alternatives to what is going to become a global disaster. Sending trillions of dollars to Saudi Arabia to me seems ludicris, because I think some of that money may end up in the hands of those that have attacked America before. Just like when we equipped Iraq to fight Iran, we later found ourselves fighting our own weapons. I could become a terrorist for about $1000... what do you think can be done with TRILLIONS? If Mr. Pickens profits from saving America, then he should. What would YOU charge to save 270 million lives, and the lives of future generations? Natural gas is a renewable resource. Biodiesel is a renewable resource. Wind and solar are also sustainable. I can't imagine why anyone would take offense at keeping TRILLIONS of dollars within US borders, cleaning the air, and providing a safe and healthy environment for generations to come.

10/1/2008 3:18:03 PM

good grief...are we hungry enough yet?....i think not!...the county is just beginning to wake up...this is going to require regular normal every day folks to get out and protest in mass like in the sixties!!!!.....does anybody remember....has anybody read up on our most recent histoy????....i know corporate america has most households living off two incomes...and some households...both the husband and wife work three part time jobs...three jobs and NO HEALTH CARE!!!!! is villianous!!!!...yes!...this is much work that we haven't had a chance to keep current...while they stole our airwaves....and comprimised every facet of our daily lives...this is huge...and i wonder if we all will actually wake up in time to do something REAL!....wind power kills almost two hundred and fifty thousand birds a year....and we are barely vested in this industry as we speak! with our birds or bee's...hummmmm willa79 is saying what many of us are thinking....and paleeeeeze Silvia...what band wagon do you think you've been riding on???????....if your going to check out mr. pickens...(the name just fits so well!) least go to some other site besides his before forming your final conclusion....egads!

9/30/2008 8:25:50 PM

The planned transmission lines from the wind turbines are going to be running all over the state. My and your property needed for the transmission lines will be taken by eminent domain. They are a huge eye-sore and health risk to the many of us who will be near them. These transmission lines lose voltage as the electricity is transmitted. Just how far can this electricity be transported and how much will be lost on the way? They should definitely be built close to where the electricity will be used. It would make much more sense to have small wind turbines and solar on each home, but then big companys would be cut out of a lot of huge profit. Our politicians have been influenced to give these wind turbine companies tax abatements, yet our tax dollars will build the transmission lines. Are wind energy companies going to help the homeowner out by selling us cheaper electricity? I think we know the answer to that.

9/29/2008 7:30:53 PM

Wind power is definately a power source that we need to develop for municipalities. However, the source of that power should be located near the areas where it is being used. I would hate to see vast, wild, natural areas of the west turned into wind farms for communities who aren't diligent in conserving that energy. If our government would step up and make renewable resources more economically available to the general public we wouldn't need to rely on "barons" or big corporations to supply energy that a lot of us could make in our own backyards. This may sound oversimplified but there should be a happy medium between using renewable natural resources and destroying the natural beauty which surrounds us.

9/28/2008 2:01:28 PM

Letter to everyone not just the editor! It’s a gloomy Sunday morning, I just got done feeding my hobby farm animals and after making the coffee for breakfast I have just spent three hours to research the Pickensplan on his webpage Something that I have been meaning to check out, but forgot in the every day priority list, ranging from making money to pay the bills to supporting my kids’ sporting events. We all know how fast the week goes, right? Well, the more I have read about the Pickensplan, the more I became excited over this pioneer, who DOES something to pull the proverbial cart out of the American dirt – and he plans to do it with good old American resources and power – the power of the people. How cool is THAT? I feel that everybody should be excited about it and jump on the wagon with Boone Pickens – because – let’s face it – what other plans are out there? Have we been disappointed by enough presidents yet, who promised to make America independent of foreign oils? Have we seen the prices of gas rise high enough at the pump within the last few years – heck months!? Does it scare (the) US enough to take action? And all the action that Boone asks of the people is to sign a letter to our congressman in order to make them aware that WE CARE! In the age of the internet, how easy is THAT? It is congress that votes bills into action. By the way: none of the Wisconsin government officials are on the wagon with Boone. Why not? He also asks the MEDIA to hold the elected President responsible for their pre-election promise regarding making America foreign oil independent. I am shocked that the Pickens plan is not front page worthy of papers and prime time TV news. I am also curious to see whether this 80 year old man is strong enough to pull the cart. If you have internet and/or if you have children and/or if you are not terminally sick and expected to die tomorrow (is it clear that I am talking to EVERYONE?), there is just one question that

david williamson
9/18/2008 6:53:00 PM

T Boone Pickens doesn't do anything that isn't good for T Boone Pickens. He has made billions off of oil. He has made a career of corporate raiding and hostile takeovers. So forgive me for being a little bit skeptical about his motives. I do know that he has used eminent domain to seize private land and force them to let him put his wind mills and transmission lines in. So if your for having private individuals rights ripped away from them then go ahead and support Texas T Boone Pickens oil billionaire. Secondly his idea of using Natural gas as a motor fuel is doable but currently we are using most of the Natural gas for other uses such as home heating, industrial energy, electricity generation. Add something as large as a large amount of the motor vehicle fleet running on natural gas and you will see a lot of other people crying and complaining when the price of natural gas sky rockets and people can't afford to heat their homes. This very fact took place when power plants were constructed to burn natural gas for electricity. The price of natural gas tripled and the cost of electricity increased. Everything has a cost and frankly we do not have enough natural gas to run everything on that alone with what we use it for and all automobiles. Don't get tunnel vision and look at the big picture. Pickens is in it to make money and good for him I'm all for a smart business man making money. Our country was built on this but don't give him unfair advantages by government intervention and use of eminent domain.

mike johnston
9/18/2008 9:04:59 AM

Don't bash the Pickens Plan if you are unfamilliar with it. I believe that T. Boone has come up with the most realistic plan to date to help America transition from our current energy sources to alternative energy. Please visit my page on the Pickens Plan site or the main page and familliarize yourself with the Plan. My Page: Main page:

9/15/2008 11:45:57 AM

T. Boone Pickens, Renewable Energy Maverick, and Neighborhood Terror! Next, I can envision the petitions on the street against this project.

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