FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and T. Boone Pickens…
...as they say in Texas, went and gang aft agley...
It seems that oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens’ eponymous “Pickens Plan” to make the country energy independent while making Boone a gazillionaire has encountered a significant technical obstacle.
Engineer’s have a term of art for that obstacle. They call it “reality”.
Seems like ol’ Boone might need a $2 billion bailout.
HOUSTON (AP) — Plans for the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle have been scrapped, energy baron T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday, and he’s looking for a home for 687 giant wind turbines.
Pickens has already ordered the turbines, which can stand 400 feet tall – taller than most 30-story buildings.
“When I start receiving those turbines, I’ve got to … like I said, my garage won’t hold them,” the legendary Texas oilman said. “They’ve got to go someplace.”
Pickens’ company Mesa Power ordered the turbines from General Electric Co. [there's that name again! -ed.] – a $2 billion investment – a little more than a year ago. Pickens said he has leases on about 200,000 acres in Texas that were planned for the project, and he might place some of the turbines there, but he’s also looking for smaller wind projects to participate in. He said he’s looking at potential sites in the Midwest and Canada.
In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system, Pickens said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York. He’d hoped to build his own transmission lines but he said there were technical problems.
Well, gee, has anyone noticed that all these grand schemes to replace massive swaths of coal and natural gas fired electrical generation make big promises but fail to deliver? In the engineering world, the devil’s in the details, like, “How much is all that going to cost?” “How are you going to finance it?” “What about rights of way for the transmission lines?” “What about the myriad of regulatory permits you have to acquire?” “What about the NIMBYs and the environmentalists?” “What’s the rate of return?”
I know, details, details. All that thinking makes my head hurt. And keeps me from the good feeling I get from dreaming about the future filled with magic windmills, and rainbows, and unicorns….
But I digress.
A couple of whoppers toward the end of the AP article caught my eye.
Renewable energy provides a small fraction of electricity used today, but the wind and solar sectors are the fastest growing in the U.S. In 2008, the U.S. became the world’s leading provider of wind power.
Renewables are about 7% thanks mostly to hydro and geothermal. Geothermal can’t grow and the greenies hate hydro. It’s not growing either. Wind and solar are fastest growing 1) because they’re so tiny (less than 1% of the total), so it’s easy to grow fast in percentage terms; and 2) because we’ve adopted a policy of turning away from nukes, coal and natural gas.
Like most industries around the world, the recession has hurt wind turbine manufacturers and wind farm developers. Companies have shelved development plans and laid off workers.
Wrong. Fundamental economics have hurt the wind industry. The recession has made it so there’s more pressure on investments to perform, not just make you feel good.