Oil tycoon turned wind and natural gas promoter T. Boone Pickens has decided to hold off on his plans for a massive wind power project in the Texas Panhandle, at least temporarily. What was to be the largest wind farm in the world has been shelved due to tight credit markets and low natural gas prices. According to Pickens’ BP Capital Management spokesman Jay Rosser, interviewed by the Washington Post, “Boone still remains committed and focused on developing wind energy in the United States. The timing is not as aggressive as he originally outlined because of the collapse of the capital markets and because of the steep downturn of natural gas prices.” (Many utilities are choosing natural gas to generate electricity).
The original plan, unveiled in 2007, was for a “4,000-megawatt wind farm — big enough to power 1.3 million homes — at a projected cost of $10 billion.” His company, Mesa Power, has already “ordered 667 wind turbines from General Electric for the first of four project phases… and is now looking for other projects that could use the $2 billion worth of turbines,” according to The Washington Post.
The shift to renewable energy will be slow and news such as this demonstrates how much of energy generation still relies on conventional energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas. Especially in tough economic times, the cost factor will largely determine what resources are used. Continued innovation, government support for alternatives, and taxes (including non-transparent ones such as cap-and-trade) will eventually make alternative energy cost competitive. As the Pickens setback illustrates, however, that day is not quite here.