The world’s largest wind farm this week became the wind farm that wasn’t. Billionaire Oilman, T. Boone Pickens, who has generally championed the cause of energy independence for the United States and specifically promised to build the largest wind farm in the world this past week said he was putting his plans on hold because of the global recession with its tight credit markets and lower natural gas prices.
You would think he’d want to build now with so many out of work and ready to pitch in. With gas prices dropping once again, it might be the best time to buy materials which would have to be shipped in to the Texas Panhandle, where he planned to position the energy producing turbines.
But that credit crunch apparently is hitting even the wealthy. Pickens could not find financing to pay for the transmission lines that would hook up his wind farm to the Texas grid to carry away the electricity produced in Pampa, Texas.
Meantime, offshore developers face a similar problem. They need to find customers to buy their power and must do so before they can get financing to build. The government just gave out leases for offshore production. But those would-be “farmers” must also navigate the federal permit process, which hasn’t been tested so far. Construction on even the most promising projects in Rhode Island, along with those in Delaware and New Jersey, won't begin for at least four years.
It all sounds pretty dismal, doesn’t it? And on the surface, it’s a bit disappointing, but think of it in terms of where we were on this subject one year ago. I think you’ll agree we’ve “come a long way baby” and we’re starting to get a handle on things.
T. Boone Pickens and his blustery, bluffing pals put wind farms back on the horizon. They moved up the public discussion about the projects. The Obama administration favors such production and we now know that we have to start moving towards greater energy efficiency, domestic production and cleaner, most environmentally friendly production. We’re heading that direction with a strong tailwind behind us.
"We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," Pickens said at the time. "I think that's the future of this country."
We know we’ve got to get on it. We still hope for the best, but the economic wind needs to pick up.