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Power Earth

Oil Billionaire Building World's Largest Wind Farm 661

Posted by kdawson
from the at-the-round-earth's-imagin'd-corners-blow dept.
gadzook33 writes "CNN is reporting that oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is planning to invest billions of dollars in what will probably be the world's largest wind farm. It will eventually generate 4 gigawatts, enough to power 1.3 million homes. The first 600 GE wind turbines are scheduled for delivery in 2010. Pickens says that each turbine will generate about $20,000 in income annually for the landowner who hosts it."
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Oil Billionaire Building World's Largest Wind Farm

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  • by BigJClark (1226554) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:40PM (#23482012)

    In other news... Oil companies erect large billboards to block naturally generated windpower in an effort to negate the power generated.

    In all seriousness, I really hope this works out, as any effort to lessen our carbon footprint is a good move in the right direction.
    • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jonbryce (703250) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:48PM (#23482156) Homepage
      They are in the business of selling energy. Why should they not want to move into selling different types of energy?
      • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:58PM (#23482300)
        because that doesn't fit the template that I've been fed of <scaryvoice>evil capitalists</scaryvoice> that hate planet earth.
        • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:03PM (#23482406) Journal
          Don't worry. After there are enough windmills, they'll find out how much the energy removed from the wind will affect the climate, and wind energy will be the next big evil ...
          • by polar red (215081) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:16PM (#23482630)
            we have removed enough trees to counter that effect
            • Re:In other news (Score:5, Informative)

              by mikael (484) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:32PM (#23485614)
              Not forgetting buildings. Cities are known to increase temperate by two degrees centigrade for every mile radius of urban development.

              National Geographic had a program which described how the latest skyscrapers in New York were being designed to save on energy by using rainwater.

              Although, they were saying that every skyscraper increased the surface area of the city due to the vertical walls, but failed to mention the shadow created by the building.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            "Don't worry. After there are enough windmills, they'll find out how much the energy removed from the wind will affect the climate, and wind energy will be the next big evil ..."

            And for goodness sake, don't try to build said wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, MA [cbsnews.com]. Apparently wind farms suffer from NIMBY too...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by homebrewmike (709361)
          > because that doesn't fit the template
          > that I've been fed of <scaryvoice>evil
          > capitalists</scaryvoice> that hate planet earth.

          Ok, I'll bite.

          Capitalism isn't 'evil' - it simply puts money above everything: that means that it can, and will, step upon those who get in it's way.

          That's why we have laws - to even the playing ground. Like your clean air? It wasn't capitalism that made it clean - it was the people standing up and saying 'we want clean air.'

          And that's really not capitalism
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Z34107 (925136)

            You know, I would hope that an, ahem, *economic* system would put money (or, more accurately, wealth) ahead of whatever politically santizied soundbites catch people's ears nowadays.

            You say we have laws to obstruct free markets, but in reality they help free markets. Besides the all-essential "enforcement of contracts" thing, there's also the fact that the paper company dumping PCBs in the river is going to fuck up the water company downstream. Little market externalities like that make things a little

        • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

          by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:20AM (#23488692) Homepage
          Actually it does.

          IIRC (I remember seeing this somewhere).

          At 125$+ per barrel wind power no longer needs tax breaks to be competitive vs other energy sources (coal and gas use rises in oil prices to raise their prices accordingly and some are contractually tied up to oil price).

          At 150$+ per barrel solar will also stop needing tax breaks.

          So it is evil capitalism at its best.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CrayHill (703411)
        Because it would require a significant infrastructure change, which might, just might, put a small dent in the oil companies' massive record profits....
        • Re:In other news (Score:5, Interesting)

          by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:11PM (#23482558) Homepage Journal
          Not really.
          Very few new power plants are going to built that burn oil. The majority of new plants now are coal, followed by natural gas, and soon I hope Nuclear.
          Wind farms will replace the Coal fired plants first so it really is a win for the oil companies to expand their revenue base.
          Same reason that BP makes solar cells.
          The Oil companies would like nothing more than to make more money selling wind power at the expense of coal. Which will make coal cheaper so the oil companies can use cheap coal to make expensive gas and diesel fuel to sell us to run our cars and trucks.
      • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmaDaden (794446) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:16PM (#23482648)
        Well if you like conspiracies...
        1) Wind is too easy. With oil they could hide fake costs and over inflate real ones.
        2) Wind is everywhere. By getting exclusive drilling rights they can squeeze out the little guy so they have no new competition.
        3) It's new. Big corporations HATE new. New is work and new is learning. CEO people hate work and learning.

        Personally reason 3 makes the most sense, But the others are possible. The fact that this guy is trying to move to wind shows that he's at least trying to move foward. Good for him
    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:48PM (#23482172) Homepage
      In other news... Oil companies erect large billboards to block naturally generated windpower in an effort to negate the power generated.

      Pickens made his initial big money in oil and is still heavily invested in it.
    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:49PM (#23482182) Homepage Journal
      American Oil companies are changing to energy companies. They're not stupid and they can see the writing on the wall.
      I wish he would do solar collectors(not panels)

      Right now they are the most promising clean alternatives, and they can store energy for night time use.

    • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:49PM (#23482184)
      I really don't understand why people think things like wind, solar, and nuclear power compete with oil. They don't. Natural gas makes a small amount of electricity, but oil fired plants are very rare and almost only used for peaking power. You can build as many wind turbines as you want but it is not going to appreciably affect oil usage because you are not making highly energy dense, transportable fuel. There is no conflict of interest whatsoever that a oil billionaire would want to build wind farms. A coal billionaire on the other hand ...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bourbonium (454366)
      I have always liked T. Boone Pickens, ever since I met him when I was just a teenager. He was only a mere millionnaire back then, but he treated everyone as an equal, regardless of our economic status. I was working as an upholsterer in Amarillo, Texas (my home town) just after I graduated High School, and my boss (an interior designer) won the contract to re-design Pickens' Mesa Petroleum offices in downtown. We worked on the weekends so as not to disrupt business during the week, but one Saturday, Picke
  • by cavtroop (859432) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:42PM (#23482038)
    Hell, sign me up for 5! I'll give up work, and just tend to these all day. Sure, it'll be cramped on my .20 acre plot, but hey!
  • by KlomDark (6370) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:43PM (#23482072) Homepage Journal
    That's only 3.3 time machines worth of power.
  • by Brigadier (12956) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:46PM (#23482132)


    just playing devils advocate as from a environmental point of view how could this be a bad thing. First off the US needs to do something like Germany and give economic incentives, ie a fixed price on energy. This way your not competing dollar for dollar with oil and coal.

    This is a capitalist country after all, nothing happens unless there is a profit to be made. My only other concern is the amount of land that these wind farms gobble up. With the growth in population especially in energy craving areas like southern california land is at a premium, which makes dedicating hundreds of acres to a wind farm also cost prohibitive. Considering no only likes high tension lines running through their neighborhood it is reasonable to think that systems like wind and solar will have to think seriously about competing with local land needs.

    just a thought
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      here's another thought: there is really a staggering amount of empty land in the US that would do just fine with wind power. As it stands, we'll run out of water long before land, especially in SoCal.
    • by aengblom (123492) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:58PM (#23482308) Homepage
      Just playing devils advocate as from a environmental point of view how could this be a bad thing. First off the US needs to do something like Germany and give economic incentives, ie a fixed price on energy. This way your not competing dollar for dollar with oil and coal.

      Wait, so you think that developers are building these without incentives and that's a bad thing? Sadly, wind still does need incentives -- and gets it in the U.S. -- but the whole idea is for incentives to jump start the technology to where it becomes competitive without the incentives.

      And these turbines, at least, aren't really gobbling land -- a lot of them get placed on ranch land, so it's essentially multi-use.
    • by Pyrrus (97830) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:06PM (#23482458) Homepage
      I am all for renewable energy, but I disagree with the idea of economic incentives. There have been a large number of potential renewable energy sources, and many people seem to have one that is their favorate. None of these (except hydroelectricity) have become major sources of power, due to various obstacles that still must be overcome. I think that once these ideas are economically feasable (*if* they are feasable) they will get investment and be implemented.

      Incentives and subsidies rush products that are not yet ready into the market because they are made artificially cheaper. The problem is, instead of using whatever technology can profitably produce energy, we end up using whatever technology is the favorate of the most people, or the pet project of a particular legislator or lobbying industry (corn ethanol, I'm looking at you).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ngg (193578)
        I'm afraid I must disagree. In my view, the problem with your argument is that you assume a free and efficient energy market. But this is not the case! We, as a country, spend a tremendous amount of our wealth defending our (energy) interests in the middle east. These costs are largely invisible to the energy consumer, which distorts the market. We can help offset these externalities by providing incentives to those who are willing to invest in other sources of energy.
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:13PM (#23483526) Homepage
        I am all for renewable energy, but I disagree with the idea of economic incentives. There have been a large number of potential renewable energy sources, and many people seem to have one that is their favorate. None of these (except hydroelectricity) have become major sources of power, due to various obstacles that still must be overcome. I think that once these ideas are economically feasable (*if* they are feasable) they will get investment and be implemented.

        Well the concept behind incentives is that sometimes you have a chicken-and-egg problem where the technology is advanced enough to give a good return, but is only truly economically feasible once mass-production lowers the price. But you can't get mass production until there's lesser production, but at lesser production it's not profitable. The incentive is designed to get around this problem, so it's profitable now, and once the price lowers due to mass production, it becomes feasible without the incentive.

        You know that hydroelectric was based on "incentives", right? The Hoover Dam was entirely a government-funded project. You can't exactly mass-produce dams, so this isn't a totally analogue example, but it is an example of successful alternative energy implementation based on government subsidies, no?

        Corn ethanol would be an example of a bad subsidy, to be sure, but pretty much everything to do with agriculture in our country is fucked up by the corn lobby. The lesson is not that government subsidies are bad as an idea. It means that like most things some implementations are bad, some good.

        If wind mills are only economical with subsidies now -- I'm not convinced that's the case any more, but even still if it gets more built -- then that sounds like a fine use of taxpayer money to me, since of all the alternative energy sources wind power has the fewest drawbacks of any of them. In fact the worst thing you can say about it is that it won't replace all of our coal plants. Big woop, it's a step in the right direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cshoes (459798)

      just playing devils advocate as from a environmental point of view how could this be a bad thing. First off the US needs to do something like Germany and give economic incentives, ie a fixed price on energy. This way your not competing dollar for dollar with oil and coal.

      This is a capitalist country after all, nothing happens unless there is a profit to be made. My only other concern is the amount of land that these wind farms gobble up. With the growth in population especially in energy craving areas like southern california land is at a premium, which makes dedicating hundreds of acres to a wind farm also cost prohibitive. Considering no only likes high tension lines running through their neighborhood it is reasonable to think that systems like wind and solar will have to think seriously about competing with local land needs.

      just a thought

      windmills gobble up land like streetlights gobble up a parking lot. I think the cows & corn will be able to intermingle with some windmills.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:36PM (#23482972) Journal

      My only other concern is the amount of land that these wind farms gobble up. With the growth in population especially in energy craving areas like southern california land is at a premium, which makes dedicating hundreds of acres to a wind farm also cost prohibitive.

      This is so utterly wrong it's funny. You OBVIOUSLY don't live anywhere near California. Try driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas some time... Note the 3+ hours of driving (at 70MPH) through COMPLETELY VACANT FRICKIN' DESERT.

      Land in Los Angeles county is ridiculously expensive. Land in immediately surrounding counties in the basin is fairly expensive also, but low enough that there are lots of farms, and the like, located there. As soon as you get out of the LA Basin, however (cross over the San Bernardino mountains) there are many, many thousands of square miles of utterly empty desert land...

      That's why Sterling Systems/Southern California Edison is building a 7 square mile solar power facility north of Victorville. That's why there's a half dozen new state and federal prisons there, that's why there's one of the longest airport runways in the world located there. That's why Chinese airports are actually contracting to have maintenance on their jets done in Southern California. That's why BNSF railroad is building an absolutely gigantic intermodal facility there, adjacent to the airport. That's why the Army's National Training Center is located nearby, with 1000 square miles (2590 km) at Ft Irwin, not to mention NASA/JPL's North American Deep Space Network (DSN) facilities. There is an unimaginably huge amount of empty, dirt-cheap land in Southern California. Not only would dedicating hundreds of acres to wind farms be trivial... Dedicating THOUSANDS of square MILES of Southern California desert land to wind farms would go completely unnoticed by the public (the Bureau of Land Management might have a little something to say about it, though).

      What's more, though, wind turbines are NOT like solar power plants. Wind turbines need as much space between them as can be practical done. In other words, you can have a few wind turbines across a farm, and continue to use the area as a farm, minus a small area that the base of the turbine takes up... It's not like the US is lacking in farm-land. In fact, most farmers LOVE wind turbines... Manufacturers just can't make them quickly enough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FredThompson (183335)
        The problems of power in California were created by California's government and the environmental wackos who used the courts to prevent expansion of electrical production. As population expands and people use more electrical devices, something has to give.

        There is a lot of land in California which could be used for turbines, true. Who pays for them, the power transmission cables and, possibly even more importantly, what is the financial overhead to meet the crazy government requirements? Maybe California wi
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:55PM (#23482260) Homepage Journal
    Please don't bring up "what about the birds?" in regards to wind turbines. Just don't. Sure, some may fly into one and die. Some won't. It's called survival of the fittest. Eventually, evolution will program birds so they will know "wind turbine ahead = death". The ones that don't pick up on it will be dead, and thus not to worry about.

    You see, if air pollution from oil/coal/whatever happens, that affects the birds too, dumb and smart.
    • by soren100 (63191) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#23483012)

      Please don't bring up "what about the birds?" in regards to wind turbines. Just don't. Sure, some may fly into one and die. Some won't. It's called survival of the fittest
      Actually, the tall buildings in cities kill a great many more birds than windmills. [nytimes.com] According to the linked article, the conservative estimate is that 100 million birds are killed each year through collisions with buildings.

      Apparently the combination of tall buildings, glass, and bright light is pretty deadly for birds. The bright lights on the tall buildings (like those over 40 stories) can really confuse the birds when they are migrating. The birds are used to using visual cues from the stars and moon to navigate, and according to the article can end up crashing into the building at night since they are attracted by the light, or get confused into circling the building until they are exhausted. Then in the morning, when they try to leave the city, the glass of the building reflects the sky and the birds fly into the glass.

      Most of the birds are small songbirds, which are easily swept up by custodial staff, and it happens at many buildings, so it's not so noticeable for pedestrians, but it's a big enough problem that the buildings (according to the article) have started dimming their lights to avoid killing more birds.

      So if you want to argue against windmills on the bird issue, then you should be prepared to argue against skyscrapers as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Apparently a lot more birds fly into mirrored glass skyscrapers than fly into windmills. Of course, if everybody starts using windmills that will mean less coal particulates in the air, which means cleaner skyscrapers, which means even more confused birds.

      Windmills kill birds!
  • Early adopter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@NoSPAM.metasquared.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:57PM (#23482298) Homepage
    And this is why the guy is a billionaire.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stinerman (812158)
      Right.

      The guy knows that the writing's on the wall with respect to fossil fuels. He's just moving on to the next challenge.
  • by rhadamanthus (200665) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:59PM (#23482328)
    This is the same guy planning to drain the Olligalla (sp?) aquifer to supply southern texas with water. Private water rights being abused, right before your eyes.


    FWIW, these two projects (the wind farm and the water system) are really the same [texaskaos.com]

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:00PM (#23482346) Homepage Journal
    I have a feeling this is just nameplate generation, something the story doesn't tell you. Figure actual capacity is about a third of this because of wind variability.
  • by Hubbell (850646) <brianhubbellii@nospAm.live.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:03PM (#23482400)
    His money would be much more well spent, and given long term value, if he spent it on a nuclear power plant.
  • Some notes (Score:5, Informative)

    by GreggBz (777373) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:08PM (#23482496) Homepage
    I live close to the Waymart Wind Farm. [orion-energy.com] Just a few notes:

    I totally support wind energy and think the turbines have done good for the community.

    They make noise. Even at 1/2 mile away, low whooshing sounds are clearly audible, especially at 4AM.

    They are HUGE. Pictures don't do it justice. By the time your next to one, it's an awesome site.

    The community here gets jobs and money from them. The government pays 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour for wind energy, netting the community here $150,000 a year. Also Florida Power and Electric pays about 12 employees here to service them. I've known a few that have worked on the turbines, they have some amazing pictures of being on top.

    They significantly interfere with off-air television. I work for the cable company, and we had to build a giant antenna in another site because our first giant antenna was to close to the windmills. Local houses have trouble getting off-air signals, digital HD included.

    They are a tourist attraction. The first few years they existed here, many people tried to sneak onto the private land to snap pictures etc..
  • by john_anderson_ii (786633) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:26PM (#23482790)
    If we accept that the actions of human beings can impact the climate, and we accept the first law of thermodynamics, what impact will wind farms have on the environment? Imagine if every home and factory in the U.S. were powered by wind farms. How much energy would these farms be pulling out of the wind? How would that impact weather patterns? Something I've always wondered about. As we jump off fossil fuels and move on to other sources of energy I sure hope someone thinks ahead this time.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:17PM (#23483588)
      we accept the first law of thermodynamics, what impact will wind farms have on the environment?

            Trying to get an idea of scale when comparing our size (or the size of these engines) to the ENTIRE WORLD would be a good place to start. It's like saying that the friction from all our cars breaking will slow down the Earth's rotation. Come on.
  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:20PM (#23483650) Journal
    In reading a few threads it is pretty obvious most posters have never seen a modern wind farm. SO here are some things that cut across threads:

    1) Land area. What will the impact be on farmable land? Probably far less than strip mining or oil and gas. Strip mines in my part of the world are huge. And while they are operating the land can not be used and they require a huge support infrastructure. I have also seen heavily developed oil and gas fields. These too have enormous impacts on agriculture and wildlife due to the large amount of infrastructure they need (roads, compressor stations, pipelines, electrical plants etc.). Since most wind farms are far above ground they are often far less intrusive.

    2) Related to the above, environmental impacts. Instead of beating a dead horse, see the point above.

    3) Why can't wind power make it without huge subsidies? Why can't the free market solve the problem? Because it is not a free market. You have the Bush/Cheney energy "plan" shoveling subsidies to oil and gas companies, this distorts the market. But even if you removed the subsidies you wouldn't have a free market since a large chunk of the world's oil supply is controlled by a corrupt cartel called OPEC. When one group can manipulate supply and demand like OPEC can, free market principles cannot operate at all. It is a horrible situation, but the only way to level the the playing field for alternative energy sources is via subsidies.

    Anyway, HTH.

  • by onion_joe (625886) <jmerrill1234&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @06:36PM (#23484830)
    About 10 years ago I spent many months in and around Guadalupe National Park in western Texas. There are hundreds of windmills lining mountain ridges, and they are HUGE! On a dare I climbed to the top of one (the ones I saw have this central shaft with a ladder that you climb in the interior) and let me say it was interesting to say the least.

    There were several examples of blades (I would guess the blades were ~70ft long, each, three blades per turbine) sheared off due to excessive winds. Splintered fiberglass across the desert. Never got to see one go in person, though. That would have been cool.

    I thought they were immensely cool, from a geek standpoint. Obviously modern technology juxtaposed with the harsh, ageless desert. Pictures of Guadalupe National Park available at the park center had the windmills photoshopped out. I found this a bit odd, but people's aesthetics differ. [shrug]

    You know what the kicker was? I was there to perform geologic mapping for the development of oil reservoir models. Turns out the geology of the place is some of the finest examples of an exhumed turbidite (underwater landslide) complex in the world, and these turbidites make mighty fine oil...

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