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Summary:

Two years ago energy baron T. Boone Pickens had visions of building the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, starting with a $2 billion order of wind turbines from General Electric. That project was put on hold indefinitely last year, but there are new […]

Two years ago energy baron T. Boone Pickens had visions of building the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, starting with a $2 billion order of wind turbines from General Electric. That project was put on hold indefinitely last year, but there are new details on it from the Dallas Morning News this morning: Pickens’ Mesa Power will still buy the turbines from GE, but the order has been cut by more than half (to 300 turbines, down from 667) and will now go toward wind projects it plans to build in Canada and Minnesota.

This latest change of plans highlights a choke point for renewable energy projects: transmission. (See GigaOM Pro’s “Renewable Energy Charging Up Electrical Transmission Tech,” sub. req’d.) According to the Dallas Morning News, Pickens said yesterday at an America’s Future Series event in Texas that the Panhandle will not have transmission lines to carry electricity from the project when he’s slated to begin taking deliveries of the turbines next year. After transmission lines get built, he said he will also build a wind farm in the region, but it’s unclear when or how big that might be.

Texas leads the nation in wind power, boasting large stretches of windswept rural plains and a regulatory environment that can fast-track wind projects. Yet drawing that power from remote areas to more populated regions is both expensive (a 2008 report estimated the state could spend between $2.95 billion and $6.38 billion building new transmission lines) and time-consuming.

The high price shouldn’t come as a surprise to Pickens. Back in 2008, he said he’d be willing to spend another $2 billion building transmission lines for the Texas project (originally envisioned with a 4,000-megawatt capacity) so he wouldn’t have to wait for the state or a utility. Well, that was before the debt markets cramped his style.

Now we’ll see if Pickens can get his wind farms built up north in the shorter term and in Texas over the longer term. But as he put it on Living on Earth ,”[E]verything has gotta happen fast for me, because I’m 80 years old.” In the wind business, it looks like there are some things even a billionaire energy baron can’t buy. Swift transmission construction is one of them.

Photo courtesy of wikimedia

  1. T. Boone and wind have a falling out « E N V I R O G Y Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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  2. Nice to see he’s still moving forward at a time when the economy and the 2008 drop in oil prices caused many to back away from renewable energy projects for financial reasons, despite the benefits to the environment.

  3. Sad to see T. Boon Pickens weakening his enthusiasm for wind. With Mesa Power halving their $2 billion wind-turbine order, let’s hope GE finds new buyers and that the Pampa Wind Farm finds new investors.

    If you are interested in wind energy, check out http://www.greencollareconomy.com. It has hundreds of case studies on emerging green technology and wind farms. It’s also the largest b2b green directory on the web.

  4. Pickens Plan Media Coverage 01.14.10 | Sustainability In Business Saturday, January 16, 2010

    [...] T. Boone’s Wind Plans Halved & Headed North – Earth2Tech – 1/13/10 [...]

  5. Instead of building more highways, the stimulus should have gone to building the necessary grid infrastructure to make projects like Pickens able to go on-line as soon as possible

  6. T. Boone’s Wind Plans Blow Into Minnesota Friday, April 9, 2010

    [...] a home for his former plan to build the world’s largest wind farm in the panhandle of Texas. Back in January the project got cut in half and Pickens was kicking it up North, possibly to Canada and Minnesota. [...]

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