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Billonaire T. Boone Pickens is pulling out of the 4 GW Texas wind farm he planned to pour $10B USD into. A death-blow to the project happened when the deal to build high-power transmission lines fell through.  (Source: foxtwo)

T. Boone Pickens is instead returning his attention to natural gas, though remaining optimistic on wind power. He claims that natural gas is our nation's "only option".  (Source: Horn River News)
Billionaire says he will turn to natural gas instead

Oil baron T. Boone Pickens made headlines when he announced that he would be making a massive investment in wind power.  He had made plans for a 4 GW wind farm in Pampa, Texas a town along U.S. Highway 60 northeast of Amarillo.  The site was set to become the largest wind farm in the U.S.

However, a mere 667 turbines into the construction (likely about a sixth of the total planned turbines) Mr. Pickens is pulling out of the "green gold" project of which he has contributed $10B USD.  A deciding factor was the difficulties in securing heavy transmission lines need to link the generators to the nation's power grid.   Mr. Pickens tried to get financing for the lines, but the deal fell through.

Now he is pulling out of the project, mostly.  He states, "The capital markets have dealt us all a setback.  I am committed to 667 wind turbines and I am going to find projects for them.  I expect to continue development of the Pampa project, but not at the pace that I originally expected."

Mr. Pickens made a fortune off his venture oil and gas firm Mesa Petroleum that after initial success began gobbling up oil and natural gas companies in the 1980s.  Now it appears that Mr. Pickens is returning to his roots.  He comments that natural gas is "the only option at this point" and continues, "There's no other, there's nothing else to replace it. It's the one and only resource in America that today can replace foreign oil. It is a cleaner, abundant fuel."

Still he remains optimistic on wind power, stating, "We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil.  I think that's the future of this country.  We'll get there."

President Obama's alternative energy efforts have pleased Mr. Pickens, as does a new bill which will offer tax credits for the production of alternative fuels vehicles, including cars that can run on natural gas.  In addition to introduce new tax credits the bill will require 50 percent of all new vehicles purchased or placed in service by the U.S. government by Dec. 31, 2014, to be capable of operating on compressed or liquefied natural gas.

Cheers Mr. Pickens, "We're going to now use natural gas in place of foreign oil."

Major wind and solar installations continue to gain traction in America, but the death of the Pickens project in Texas showcases the problems with America's power infrastructure.  America is suffering from a decrepit and poorly maintained power grid which not only lowers efficiencies (raising power costs) and contributes to brownouts, but also hinders alternative energy projects.  As America has expanded, the grid hasn't expanded quickly enough with it, as this project showcases.



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This guy is a hack
By mdogs444 on 7/9/2009 9:20:49 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Mr. Pickens is pulling out of the "green gold" project of which he has contributed $10B USD.


Yeah T. Boone...hows that "GREEN GOLD" working out for ya?

People know wind power is a bunch of bunk - known it all along. But the greenies don't care how much it costs, as long as their emotions are addressed. Maybe this should be a lesson to you people that even those with money to invest in order to make a profit can't afford these stupid wind farms because they aren't worth it!




RE: This guy is a hack
By acase on 7/9/09, Rating: 0
RE: This guy is a hack
By MPE on 7/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: This guy is a hack
By teldar on 7/9/2009 10:34:19 AM , Rating: 5
You're a tool.
Look into how much of his own money he put up for this. Not a whole lot.
Like Fit said, most of this was paid for by our tax dollars.
WE paid for the wind farm he built and then he wanted US to pay for improvements in the grid so he could sell US the electricity that WE paid for in the first place.

He's real big on government incentives then making his customers pay him for what the government gave him. Nice, eh?


RE: This guy is a hack
By marvdmartian on 7/9/2009 10:37:20 AM , Rating: 2
And now you know how billionaires become billionaires!


RE: This guy is a hack
By teldar on 7/9/2009 10:38:56 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly.


RE: This guy is a hack
By therealnickdanger on 7/9/2009 10:51:04 AM , Rating: 3
Yup, Bill Gates totally took our tax dollars... wait...


RE: This guy is a hack
By MPE on 7/9/2009 1:45:12 PM , Rating: 3
No he dodge corporate tax.


RE: This guy is a hack
By TSS on 7/9/2009 9:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
"Smithers, why haven't I heard of this "The Leader"? He's as rich and wicked as I, but he seems to enjoy tax exempt status!"

"Actually, sir, with our creative book-keeping and corporate loopholes we only pay three dollars a year."

"You're right, we're getting screwed!"


RE: This guy is a hack
By FITCamaro on 7/9/2009 10:53:21 AM , Rating: 2
Except he didn't build the wind farm. He just bought the turbines. Which he now is looking to sell the majority of. Somehow I doubt we'll get the money back from the sale of the turbines. It's going into his pocket most likely.


RE: This guy is a hack
By MPE on 7/9/2009 1:52:21 PM , Rating: 2
$10 billion is not a lot. Yes you are right.


RE: This guy is a hack
By Fanon on 7/9/09, Rating: 0
RE: This guy is a hack
By jRaskell on 7/9/2009 12:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why do you think there is only 1 new refinery in the US in 30+ years. And it will cost $10B - maybe more.


I might ask why YOU think more refineries haven't been built in the last 30+ years. I can assure you, it has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of building one.


RE: This guy is a hack
By MPE on 7/9/2009 1:48:17 PM , Rating: 2
Return of Investement.
Building one is expensive, maintaining is expensive, cleaning it is expensive, upgrading is expensive and on top of that - they have no control over price of oil per barrel. They only refine it. This is why a lot of refineries in the US last year where operating in the red.


RE: This guy is a hack
By FITCamaro on 7/9/2009 2:11:03 PM , Rating: 2
You don't think an oil refinery makes money? They probably were in the red due to having to retool for all the ethanol they had to add + the bust of oil near the end of they year.

No refineries have been built because any time someone attempts to build one environmentalists make the costs skyrocket with lawsuits and requiring environmental impact studies.

Building one would be a whole lot cheaper if environmentalists weren't allowed to sue the builders on the behalf of the public. Look at the argument that went on in Montana I believe it was where they wanted to build one. The majority of the citizens of the area voted to allow it to be built but environmental groups kept bringing up lawsuits. I never did hear about what the outcome of it was but given that I never heard about it being built I'm going to assume it wasn't built.


RE: This guy is a hack
By erple2 on 7/9/2009 7:31:52 PM , Rating: 2
I think that the GP is right - the profit margins in operating a refinery in this country are stunningly small - it's far more cost effective to let some other country do the refining for you, then buy the resultant product. See http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analy... for the approximate profit margins on refining oil. Sub-10% is pretty terrible (unless you're a government contractor, then it's actually pretty good).

Granted, one of the reasons why it's so expensive is that the regulations on maintenance and regular inspections are very costly. However, better to let other countries shoulder that burden, then buy the refined product for 10% of their profit margins (which, outside of very few other countries is still far cheaper than refining it in the US), and sell at a 20% profit margin, while still making healthy profits.


RE: This guy is a hack
By FaaR on 7/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: This guy is a hack
By teldar on 7/9/2009 10:38:33 AM , Rating: 2
And maybe you should find out what they do about backup power. Here's a hint.
They still have enough traditional power sources to run their entire country. Or they buy it from their neighbors when the wind power isn't cutting it.

NONCONTINUOUS SOURCES OF POWER NEED BACKUP.
Period.
Don't know how to say it better.
What if you go solar and it's cloudy. What if you go wind and it's a calm day.

All 'alternative' sources of electricity production still have to have 'traditional' sources to back them up.

The ONLY alternative is to build batteries at power distribution stations that will hold enough juice to power the area or supplement the alternative source's production.

I'm not saying alternative is bad. It just doesn't make economic sense when you still have to have stable power generation.


RE: This guy is a hack
By clovell on 7/9/2009 11:04:08 AM , Rating: 2
No, that's not the only alternative. See Pumped Water Storage.


RE: This guy is a hack
By JosephMcD on 7/9/2009 11:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
True enough, wind/solar are not generally considered feasible for continuous power generation without some kind of battery backup or secondary power generation system. However, saying that we shouldn't be using wind/solar for that reason is pretty foolish.

Wind and solar power are great methods for offloading some of the required power from primary generators so that things like brownouts don't occur. Everyone knows that we can't run on fossil fuels forever so if we can cutback on just how much we are using, even a little bit, and extend how long those fuels can last we have a much better chance at finding a primary source of power that will work for our future needs.

Besides, wind/solar fill a niche that no other power generator can; personal use. i.e., anyone can put solar panels up and many people can put up wind turbines and connect them to their own grid to reduce their consumption (and their bill). That, IMO, is pretty exciting actually.


RE: This guy is a hack
By teldar on 7/9/2009 11:20:03 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not saying it doesn't have any value. I'm saying that a country cannot count on it as a sole source of power generation. That's something that people seem to want to avoid talking about.

The simple truth is that you have to have something else lined up for continuous power generation.

I have no idea what sort of allowable dependence on alternative sources could be. Like If you have X megawatts of Solar and X megawatts of Wind, reduce continuous traditional production by .2X? .5X?
Hoping that when it's windy, it's cloudy and the turbines work and that when it's sunny, it's calm and that the solar works.

I'm just saying that a country cannot depend on alternative sources.

I have looked at solar as a supplement for personal power, but I don't know about the feasibility in Ohio as of yet. I think they're too expensive at this point for the cloud cover we have here.


RE: This guy is a hack
By 67STANG on 7/9/2009 11:46:34 AM , Rating: 2
I think what is important to note here is that Pickens has tarnished the renewable power sector more than he has helped it. Anyone with a higher-than 4th grade education knew that he was trying to promote his own economic interests.

That being said, this topic is F'd out. Everyone has their own position on what they think the way forward is, determined from their own reasoning. Perhaps instead of everyone bickering over "X" method is the "future", we should all just agree that a robust power portfolio is a wise choice.

Nuclear is great for solid, predictable and dependable power. Renewables are relatively predictable in commercial installations where decades of weather patterns are observed. Turbines in windy areas, solar in sunny areas.

So, to sum up good balance:
1) Nuclear for 60-75% base power.
2) Solar on ALL houses and commercial buildings to relieve strain on Nuclear.
3) Wind farms and geothermal to handle grid fluctuations and provide constant energy for 10-15% of the base.


RE: This guy is a hack
By FITCamaro on 7/9/2009 2:13:34 PM , Rating: 2
Well geothermal is a pretty damn constant source of power. You don't really have to worry about the Earth's core to stop putting out heat.

As far as solar being on every home and commercial building, who's going to pay for that. I've no problem with homes having it, but if you want it on your home, you pay for it. Same for your business.


RE: This guy is a hack
By 67STANG on 7/9/2009 3:37:32 PM , Rating: 2
Geothermal is constant, but has been shown to cause tremors. Construction of plants are also variable due to the different depths required on a location by location basis. They also take up a ton of space for the amount of power they produce. (and they use a LOT of water).

That being said, they are pretty reliable as far as power predictions go.

Solar being on every home and commercial building is very beneficial-- they already do it on a wide scale in Germany. Where I live in California, many new home builders include them with the homes they build.

Obviously the cost:power ratio of solar isn't there yet, but then again the price of panels have dropped steadily over the last decade. With the latest innovations like the company that prints them on a newspaper-style press getting ready to ramp up, I'd say that it would be a real possibility that everyone could afford solar within the next decade. I know I'd pay a couple grand to do away with my electric bill.


RE: This guy is a hack
By FITCamaro on 7/9/2009 5:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well yes for new homes its easier since the cost would be included in the price of the home. Everyone else though should have to pay for it out of their own pocket. If it gets inexpensive great. However in certain areas of the country it makes no sense to install solar panels such as in the northeast. And I would think anywhere with heavy snowfall it wouldn't be a good idea. But I'm not sure how well solar panels react to extremely cold temperatures or large amounts of snow being on top of them. Granted you could cover them in the winter to keep the snow off. But then they're not really doing much good.

As I've said before. If I lived in an area where it made sense and I could afford it, I'd install solar panels on my house. Even if its $10,000, it'd pay itself off in 5 years or so. But many people can't afford it.


RE: This guy is a hack
By jf79 on 7/10/2009 12:51:02 AM , Rating: 2
Actually geothermal plants take up a very small amount of space for the amount of power they can put out. They can put out more power per square yard than nuclear power plants. Also the water used in geothermal is recycled, unlike the water in nuclear plants that require fresh supplies of water. The tremor problem has been documented though.


RE: This guy is a hack
By FaaR on 7/10/2009 7:37:20 AM , Rating: 2
THE NEED FOR BACKUP POWER (caps is such fun, eh?) is one thing.

Calling wind power 'a bunch of bunk' (with no arguments whatsoever, not even about backup power, to qualify the statement) is something entirely different.


RE: This guy is a hack
By SublimeSimplicity on 7/9/2009 11:26:53 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Yeah T. Boone...hows that "GREEN GOLD" working out for ya?


"Green Gold"...

Did you know that was the original working title for "An Inconvenient Truth"?


RE: This guy is a hack
By MrPickins on 7/9/2009 12:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
Did he actually contribute $10 billion of his own money? Wikipedia lists his net worth as ~3B...

I'm guessing most of that 10B was contributed by the taxpayers, although I have no proof.


RE: This guy is a hack
By Solandri on 7/9/2009 3:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
The figures I heard were $2b of his own money, and most of the remainder from other investors. Dunno how much was taxpayer money, but I imagine not a lot if he's only bought a bunch of turbines. Taxpayer funds are usually structured as incentives - you have to spend your own money to get the govt. money.

I also heard his real goal was to get a utility easement through the state for the power lines. Apparently he owns a lot of the aquifer water rights in one part of Texas. The easement would've let him build a pipeline to send that water to other parts of the country where he could sell it, without having to buy or contract with any of the property owners in between.


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