T. Boone Pickens — everyone’s favorite oil baron turned natural gas and wind backer — has been trying to find 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. Now it looks like the 334 turbines could land in Goodhue, Minn., creating a 78 MW wind farm, according to local Minnesotan media.
The project is also getting some help from conglomerate General Electric, which originally supplied Pickens with the wind turbines and then cut him a deal to halve the order when his plan hit rocky financial ground. According to local media, Pickens Mesa Power has created a joint venture with GE, called American Wind Alliance, which will help finance the project and deliver about 50 MW of the turbines.
Minneapolis-based National Wind, will develop the wind project, potentially starting this year, and Xcel Energy will buy the electricity. It’s not a done deal yet, and the project still needs to secure permits and financing, and the state utility regulators need to approve Xcel Energy’s participation. If history is any guide, who knows if Goodhue will actually end up getting the wind farm — the original project has had a variety of iterations, sizes and locations.
One reason that Pickens wind farm fled Texas is the issue with transmission in the state. (See GigaOM Pro’s “Renewable Energy Charging Up Electrical Transmission Tech,” sub. req’d.) Pickens has said that by the time he expected to begin taking deliveries of the turbines next year, the Texas Panhandle would still not have enough transmission lines to carry electricity from the project.
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 expensive (a 2008 report estimated the state could spend between $2.95 billion and $6.38 billion building new transmission lines) and time-consuming.