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.

  • 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.

  • Wind power beats oil

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.



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