T. Boone Pickens, once one of the brightest examples of the shift from conventional fossil fuel energy to renewable energy, has announced his Pickens Plan no longer involves wind energy.
Pickens made his fortune in the oil and gas industry. Yet, in 2008, he offered up the Pickens Plan as a roadmap for creating American energy independence by eliminating the country’s dependency on foreign oil. According to the plan, the two energy sources capable of this task were wind energy and natural gas.
In his plan, Pickens stated that America was home to the best wind corridor of any country in the world. In a promotional video, he explains, “For land size, compared to everybody else, we’re the best. We’re not using it. We have not used it.”
Pickens advocated that the development of this energy source would not only help solve America’s energy issues, but it would also stimulate the economy by creating jobs and revitalizing rural towns. To this end, he laid out plans to build a 4,000 megawatt wind farm — the world’s largest — in Pampa, Texas, and spent US$80 million promoting the Pickens Plan.
However, since the very beginning his wind plans have fizzled. From the outset, construction of the wind farm was hampered by a lack of transmission lines to transfer the energy to city centers. Even though the location of Pampa, Texas was no longer a possibility, Pickens was still on the hook construct a wind farm as he had already placed the order for 687 wind turbines. Last year, he reaffirmed his intention to build 4,000 megawatts of wind power.
Since then, speculation has run rampant that he had lost his fervor for wind power. Now, that speculation can be put to rest, as Pickens Plan is being revamped to focus exclusively on one resource, natural gas.
According to MSNBC.com, last Friday, Pickens said low natural gas prices have made utility companies view wind power as too expensive. “You’re going to get natural gas prices up, or wind — it just isn’t gonna happen.” Pickens is still trying to find a home for his original shipment of 500 megawatts worth of wind turbines. He says Canada will be the likely destination because it has better renewable energy standards.
Watch the Latest Pickens Plan Video:
It appears the business potential of natural gas is more appealing to Pickens than wind. The United States is home to some of the best natural gas resources in the world, and with the advent of hydraulic fracturing those resources can now be tapped quicker and at much lower costs.
With 1.7 million supporters for his plan, Pickens is now lobbying Congress to pass legislation which would offer incentives for companies to convert light and heavy truck fleets to run on compressed natural gas. Pickens says having just 8 million of these vehicles would cut the United States’ oil imports in half.
Although there is sure to be disappointment from the wind industry regarding the failure of T. Boone Pickens’ wind farm and his vanishing advocacy for the industry; the U.S. wind sector will continue to grow without him.
Pickens’ assessment of wind power as an expensive resource, compared to other energy technologies, may be true in the short-term, but this reality is certainly changing. Wind power is one of the fastest growing energy technologies worldwide, and despite experiencing a difficult year this year, analysts say long-term future of the U.S. wind industry is very bright.