Even after T. Boone Pickens’ plan to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas got kicked by the debt markets, he tried to remain optimistic that the funding would come and his plan would only suffer a minor delay. But at the Clean Tech Investor Summit on Wednesday, Pickens said that the farm will likely be pushed back at least to 2011, when the wind turbines are due to be delivered.
And even that deadline might be optimistic, admits Pickens, who calls himself an eternal optimist. “We’ll see what happens in 2-3 years,” he said. Construction of the wind farm was supposed to start in 2010, but this best-case scenario would involve a delay of at least a year. At this point there’s just no money to finance the wind project, says Pickens.
But the hedge fund manager did offer up one new possible way to finance wind projects while funding is scarce: a wind bank. Pickens says the Obama administration should look into ways of developing a wind bank that would offer funds for wind developers. He didn’t elaborate on how it would work.
With his wind plans on hold, Pickens largely steered his talk to that of natural gas-powered vehicles, which he says are crucial to getting the U.S. off foreign oil in any meaningful short-term timeline. Pickens says with $28 billion the U.S. could convert 350,000 diesel trucks to natural gas, which as he’s noted before, could create 454,470 jobs and reduce oil imports by 5.14 percent. He wants to address the heavy-duty vehicles first, that the “dribble-down” effect onto regular cars will be felt later.
So far, Pickens is feeling good about the new administration; he called Obama a charismatic guy whom he thinks can get the job done. This is one of the first times in Pickens career that he’s been satisfied with a Democrat. Previously Pickens helped fund the Swift Boat campaign, which played a role in John Kerry’s failed bid for president. As he noted, Sen. Harry Reid once called Pickens his mortal enemy; he has since become Reid’s mortal friend.