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Summary:

T. Boone Pickens is set to spend $12 billion on the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle, but his water investment in the area — around a $100 million so far — could make an equally big splash for the ex-oilman. According to Business […]

T. Boone Pickens is set to spend $12 billion on the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle, but his water investment in the area — around a $100 million so far — could make an equally big splash for the ex-oilman. According to Business Week, Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the country through water rights in the Ogallala aquifer under the same land he is putting turbines up on. And now Pickens is working to get a deal to transport both his wind and water over to Dallas. “The wind is meant to sweeten the deal,” Texas State Rep Warren Chisum tells BW. “The big money for Pickens is in the water.”

His wind and water have the same problem: no nearby buyers. Building both electrical transmission lines and a water pipeline to Dallas would require negotiations with hundreds of inconveniently situated landowners. If only he could somehow force them all to sell to him . . . like through state-mandated eminent domain! That’s where Pickens’s political savvy dovetails with his inscrutable business interests. Clean energy developers can learn a thing or two from one of America’s most infamous corporate raiders.

Not just anyone can exercise the right of eminent domain. According to BW, Pickens had his lobbyists exert pressure on the Texas legislature to give joint energy and water transmission lines right-of-way. To get the power of eminent domain Pickens formed his own eight-acre water district on his property and now has the power to annex land “for the common good.”

In April Pickens sent 1,100 letters out to landowners along the 250-mile corridor he wants to build on. Pickens is confident he’ll be able to get all the land he needs for about $30 million and plans to start building a $1.5 billion water pipeline with a $2 billion electrical transmission line above.

But Pickens’s lobbying powers aren’t limited to the Lone Star state. Pickens testified yesterday in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Pickens told Congress to expand the scope of eminent domain and right-of-way, which are currently controlled at the state level, so companies like his Mesa Wind and Water can operate across state lines.

“All I’m doing is selling surplus water,” Pickens tells Business Week. The very idea of “surplus water” exemplifies how Pickens can make anything into a commodity, from water to political will. Perhaps thinking this way is the best way to get clean energy to compete with commodities like oil, coal and gas — with force.

By Craig Rubens

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  1. wow, this guy is really into something.

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  2. greensolutions Sunday, June 22, 2008

    “Clean energy developers can learn a thing or two from one of America’s most infamous corporate raiders.”

    Yes, let’s hope they learn an important lesson in what NOT to do.

    First of all, aquifers that are already being depleted should only be tapped as a secondary source of water for users located ON TOP OF or RIGHT NEXT TO the aquifer–AFTER conservation, efficiency, rainwater catchment and, for sunny, humid environments, CSP dehumidification catchment.

    Say you’re installing a photovoltaic system–you don’t keep the avocado green fridge, the electric water heater, the electric furnace and continue to keep lights on in rooms nobody is using while expecting a photovoltaic system to be practical when your house is poorly insulated, shaded by forest canopy and the only sunny spot on your property is a quarter mile away. A completely clueless person who is in love with photovoltaics may do it anyway, even though it would be impractical and very expensive in light of the much easier, cheaper and more elegant solutions for that particular situation.

    People in Dallas, like the rest of the US, continue to use drinking water to flush turds and urine down the toilet, wash cars and trucks and water their useless lawns with sprinklers that lose 80% to wind and evaporation before the water hits the grass. Water from kitchen and bathroom sinks and showers is flushed down the drain after a single use! The ogallala aquifer is already being depleted (not to mention polluted) by ignorant “farmers” and is in desperate need of good stewardship–not more depletion–especially not for the purpose of feeding a city like Dallas, governed by people who have enormous disrespect for water and every other natural resource.

    If you need clarification on the CSP dehumidification reference, I was referring to using rooftop or land-based microCSP (like the systems made by Sopogy) to drive multiple simultaneous processes, like air-conditioning, refrigeration, electricity production, industrial thermal processes and dehumidification. Dehumidifiers, like the portable versions you can buy for your home, extract water from the air and, if designed properly, can provide drinking water. The amount of water produced depends on the energy used, the efficiency of the device and the relative humidity. This is not such a good idea if you’re driving the process with coal-derived electricity (unless it’s an emergency), cause it’s quite the energy hog, but it is much more efficient when driven directly with solar thermal …but even this really only makes economic sense if conservation and efficiency measures are put into place first and other processes are driven with the same thermal energy (cogeneration).

    T Boone Pickens is only doing what he knows–externalizing the ill-effects of his operations onto others so that it doesn’t end up on his bottom line. His balance sheets will never reflect the grief he is causing to the 1100 landowners he has disrespected. His balance sheets will never reflect the multiple effects of accelerated depletion of the ogallala aquifer–until it affects his own extraction locations. By then, he will have made off like the bandit he is. He is ignorant and inconsiderate, to put it mildly.

    “All I’m doing is selling surplus water,” Pickens tells Business Week.

    Right. By that logic, I could kidnap you and have one of your kidneys removed so I could sell it on the black market. Then when you wake up, I could just say, “All I’m doing is selling a surplus kidney.”

    It’s times like this I wish I had infinite time and money to do a really in-depth analysis to show an investor that it would actually be more profitable to do it the right way. With the estimated $3,530,000,000 he wants to spend on this project, he could actually supply more clean energy and water through local, distributed systems with additional side benefits and higher profits without any of the drawbacks of his current plan.

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  3. [...] blogged previously about the project as has Craig Rubens. A Texas land and oil baron this size is always scary; but, he’s also done a pretty good job of [...]

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  4. Bryan dervin Sunday, August 3, 2008

    Lets start with the oil companys With putting wind power on there leases. they ownen there owen ele. lines anyway. Let them show the way.

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  5. Bryan dervin Sunday, August 3, 2008

    Lets start with the oil companys With putting wind power on there leases. they owen there ele. lines anyway. Let them show the way.

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  6. [...] at 4:08 pm in Big Green The formerly dry subject of transmission infrastructure is becoming a hot topic as proposals for sprawling wind and solar farms require new lines to be built out in the middle of [...]

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  7. We have public utilities. Is there any compelling reason for us to allow any private party to control water or electric? This should be a matter of public policy. This is another example of the Republicans wanting a profit in everything.

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  8. [...] and distribution will be needed. Former oil baron T. Boone Pickens knows this — he owns more water than any other individual in the country, through rights to the Ogallala aquifer under the same [...]

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  9. [...] and distribution will be needed. Former oil baron T. Boone Pickens knows this — he owns more water than any other individual in the country, through rights to the Ogallala aquifer under the same [...]

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  10. [...] in infrastructure and distribution will be needed. Former oil baron T. Boone Pickens knows this — he owns more water than any other individual in the country, through rights to the Ogallala aquifer under the same [...]

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