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Power Technology

Pickens Calls Off Massive Wind Farm In Texas 414

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-told-you-those-wind-seeds-were-a-scam dept.
schwit1 writes with this excerpt from an AP report: "Plans for the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle have been scrapped, energy baron T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday, and he's looking for a home for 687 giant wind turbines. Pickens has already ordered the turbines, which can stand 400 feet tall — taller than most 30-story buildings. 'When I start receiving those turbines, I've got to ... like I said, my garage won't hold them,' the legendary Texas oilman said. 'They've got to go someplace.' Pickens' company Mesa Power ordered the turbines from General Electric Co. — a $2 billion investment — a little more than a year ago. Pickens said he has leases on about 200,000 acres in Texas that were planned for the project, and he might place some of the turbines there, but he's also looking for smaller wind projects to participate in."
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Pickens Calls Off Massive Wind Farm In Texas

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  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:37AM (#28624089)

    Wow. I've seen this same kind of mistake happen in the little companies I work for, spending money on stuff right before plans change. I've seen this kind of mistake but never personally witnessed one of them this big. Looks like I'm going to have to RTFA to see what changed the deal after all the checks were signed.

    • by oddRaisin (139439) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:40AM (#28624129)

      Yeah, I'm surprised the summary didn't include the reasons for the decision.

      From the article:

      In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system, Pickens said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York. He'd hoped to build his own transmission lines but he said there were technical problems.

      • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:43AM (#28624179)
        In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system

        Yeah, I can see how someone might forget about that little detail before ordering two billion dollars worth of equipment. Wow.
        • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:54AM (#28624401)
          I'm sure he was banking on a bit of taxpayer funds and cutting deals with the electric company to get that done. My guess is they voted him down.
          • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:10PM (#28624671)

            I'm sure he was banking on a bit of taxpayer funds and cutting deals with the electric company to get that done. My guess is they voted him down.

            That may well be right, but that doesn't mean that such was smart thinking on his part. I am one of the rare print subscribers to USA Today (yes there are still some of us left) and it seemed like almost every week there was some giant ad that his company paid for telling Americans to contact Congress and support his wind farm project to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I think a rather significant portion of his plan was that some government entity, be it Texas or the USA, would get behind it and pony up the money necessary to get the power to a distribution system.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by interval1066 (668936)
              I'm a little surprised he's so stuck on pinning the blame on foreign oil suppliers when he should know damn well the '08 spike was driven by market speculation.
            • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:26PM (#28626001) Homepage

              I think a rather significant portion of his plan was that some government entity, be it Texas or the USA, would get behind it and pony up the money necessary to get the power to a distribution system.

              I'm not sure that would have been such a bad idea. Here's someone putting his own money where his mouth is on national energy policy and dependence on foreign oil.

              Seems like the collective "we" could have ponied up a little support as part of the Smart Grid upgrade. It fits many of the qualification for a stimulus project. Green jobs, alternative energy, Smart Grid, local jobs and it's shovel ready.

              I'm not saying it was smart, only that it does seem to line up with our national priorities and why would helping out with the grid upgrade been such a bad idea? There have been public/private partnerships in other areas, why not this one?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Golias (176380)

            I'm sure he was banking on a bit of taxpayer funds and cutting deals with the electric company to get that done. My guess is they voted him down.

            Exactly.

            He's a rich oil man (we've all seen "There Will Be Blood", right?) who saw an opportunity where companies like ADM were scoring big wins at the government trough due the the demands for "greener" energy, so he gambled on a chance to get in on it.

            He spent a couple million on some big-ass windmills, and a little more on lobbying/advertising efforts to see if he could sucker the public to pitch in on it. If it worked, he would have become one of the biggest energy barons in the world. Since it didn't

          • Or, what's the easiest way to get both right-of-way AND water rights? Uh huh, have the government condemn miles upon miles of land from everyone in the way [earth2tech.com].
        • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:37PM (#28627217) Journal

          In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system

          Yeah, I can see how someone might forget about that little detail before ordering two billion dollars worth of equipment. Wow.

          As I do from time to time, I shall explain what's going on for people attempting to grok the situmication.

          Remember all his damned ads on TV? They were designed to get people behind him, and thus coerce politicians seeking election to help accomplish this transmission system. Money, eminent domain, whatever he needs.

          I'm gonna go out on a limb here and predict, from this theory (remember science?) that he didn't get what he needed. Politicians don't like people doing a populist end-run around their usual kickback MO.

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#28624313)

        From the article:

        In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system, Pickens said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York. He'd hoped to build his own transmission lines but he said there were technical problems.

        There has to be something more to it than that. Maybe he thought he could get the state to pay for it or something the way sports team owners seem to expect the taxpayers should pay for their little athletic club. These public-private partnerships usually end up being a way to fuck the public out of tax dollars.

        Electrical transmission technology is well-understood. There shouldn't be any technical surprises. The wind turbines are the new wrinkle but even they shouldn't be that big of a problem. It's not like he's trying to build a fusion reactor with technology that doesn't exist yet. There has to be a non-technical reason behind this.

        • by bitty (91794) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:03PM (#28624559) Homepage

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickens_Plan#Pickens.27_motives [wikipedia.org]

          I think the "technical problems" may be that he couldn't get the okay to build his pipeline along the same corridor. I never trusted his motives, and I remember reading a pretty detailed article on this shortly after he announced his grandiose plan.

        • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:09PM (#28624653)

          Electrical transmission technology is well-understood. There shouldn't be any technical surprises.

          Seeing as it's Texas, somebody didn't make a large enough campaign contribution to the right people, next thing you know, right where the towers were supposed to be installed, it turns out to be the breeding ground for a rare species of mosquito, or perhaps prairie dog or armadillo.

          There will be some more posturing on both sides, money will change hands, the show stopping problem will be papered over, it'll be all good.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          sports team owners seem to expect the taxpayers should pay for their little athletic club

          The "little athletic clubs" who bring in buckets and buckets of tax money, tourism, and municipal revenue?

          Those ones?

          • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:58PM (#28625523) Homepage Journal

            The "little athletic clubs" who bring in buckets and buckets of tax money, tourism, and municipal revenue?

            Yours is the standard argument for why cities should build stadiums for major-league teams. Except it never quite seems to work out that way, at least in cities where I've lived (Denver and Minneapolis) which have recently done so. The team owners extract all kinds of special concessions from the cities to the point where the cities end up with all the costs -- traffic control around the stadiums, existing neighborhoods and businesses wiped out, infrastructure costs for the stadium, and of course the construction costs themselves, which always always always go overbudget -- while the owners end up with the benefits, including not only the ticket sales but also such goodies as sales tax exemptions on goods sold inside the stadium, which means they can charge more and keep all the profits. It looks a hell of a lot like a racket; if you've got solid evidence to the contrary, go for it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Martin Blank (154261)

              This is one of the reasons that Los Angeles has no professional football team. The city refuses to chip in any significant monies or concessions, and did so even when it wasn't facing a massive budget problem. Surrounding cities just don't have the money in the first place.

              Of course, it doesn't help that even when a team is successful, there are problems putting fans in the stands. LA appears to be a basketball and baseball town, and not so much for the NFL.

          • by Golias (176380) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:27PM (#28626031)

            sports team owners seem to expect the taxpayers should pay for their little athletic club

            The "little athletic clubs" who bring in buckets and buckets of tax money, tourism, and municipal revenue?

            Those ones?

            Every credible third-party study on professional sports teams has completely debunked that myth.

            Having a sports team in your town brings in NO additional net revenue, and in most cases, costs you.

            If you're going to subsidize private businesses to the tune of $400 Million, you are better off giving $1 Million each to 400 random small business in the local Yellow Pages than building a ballpark.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrLang21 (900992)
          Technically the tax payers don't want to pony up for something they're going to have to pay for again privately.
        • by Fubari (196373)

          Fool? No.

          Evil Genius?
          Maybe... check this out:

          --- begin ---
          Pickens Gives New Meaning to 'Self-Government'

          By Steven Milloy
          July 31, 2008

          The more you learn about T. Boone Pickens' plan to switch America to wind power, the more you realize that he seems willing to say and do just about anything to make another billion or two.

          This column previously discussed the plan's technical and economic shortcomings and marketing ruses. Today, we'll look into the diabolical machinations behind it.

          Simply put, Pickens' pitch i

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sunking2 (521698)
        That's a nice excuse that conveniently diregards the fact that natural gas prices have plumeted. Remember that while I don't think he is completely being dishonest with his push for wind power, the real money maker in this whole deal was his push towards more natural gas production. This is where he makes his money and was willing to pay out for wind if it increases his gas profits enoough. Of course this all really simply ties back to "It's the economy, stupid" as this was the driver behind prices flooring
      • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:33PM (#28625091)

        Technical? More likely political.

        Although Texas operates its own isolated grid, the panhandle area lies partially outside of this, in a region covered by the Eastern Interconnection [wikipedia.org], the power grid that interconnects the eastern half of the USA. Where the Texas grid may not have been able to absorb such a large amount of varying power, that shouldn't be a problem for this larger area. Up until this project was envisioned, Texas politicians haven't expressed a problem with the panhandle region being a part of a separate grid, so long as it is a net power importer. But shipping power out of state changes the issue.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by farker haiku (883529)

          Well, technically he didn't give the right amount of money to the right people. Does that count?

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:42AM (#28624163) Journal

      Here, I'll handle that for you.

      In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system, Pickens said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York. He'd hoped to build his own transmission lines but he said there were technical problems.

      Now, one would think a major issue like this would have been thought of beforehand (it was) and thoroughly scoped out BEFORE the investment (it wasn't).

    • by oldhack (1037484) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:44AM (#28624199)
      Taking a bet that fails isn't necessarily a mistake.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        Taking a bet that fails isn't necessarily a mistake.

        Yeah, but there's a good bet and there's a stupid bet. It's like building a golf course in the desert. Yes, it can be done, people do it. But the irrigation demands will be far higher than in sane places and even a child could tell you that you'd need to make sure you have access to water for it to even be feasible. No water, no golf course. This is just basic due diligence. It's like aluminum smelting plants, they use gigawatts of electricity to separate aluminum from the ore. Because of the ridiculous pow

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:54AM (#28624397) Homepage Journal
      It sounds a lot like a gamble on his part in order to get the local utility to cough up part of the dough for transmission lines running to his proposed site. Saying there were "Technical Problems" is completely misleading since there is nothing particularly difficult about installing/operating an electrical grid, short of the significant upfront cost in materials, easements, and land purchases. Not to mention constant upkeep.

      I suspect he approached the eminent utilities on this when the windmills were ordered, and got a soft "sure, if there's a windmill in Texas we will buy energy from it" sort of commitment that turned into a "You want us to spend how much capital? Just for the right to buy your energy?" now that the nation's financial situation is looking less optimistic.
    • by SnapShot (171582) * on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @06:26PM (#28629883)

      He spent the only money that mattered. Pickens funded the Swift Boating [firedoglake.com] of Kerry and got a 4 more years of an oil-industry friendly administration. That's money well spent, from his perspective at least.

      I don't care how many fucking windmills that cunt build or doesn't build. I, and many others, will never forgive or forget.

  • Good. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dan_sdot (721837) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:39AM (#28624105)
    These things are a great way to make a beautiful landscape hideous. And the amount of power generated considering the acreage needed is ridiculous.

    Here's a crazy idea: how about nuclear power? Oh, that's right, the word "nuclear" is too super-scary for the science-based environmentalists. Never mind that they actually are better for the environment than anything else.
    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Goaway (82658) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:41AM (#28624151) Homepage

      "Hideous"? Speak for your own narrow-minded aesthetics. Plenty people think they look beautiful, myself included.

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:55AM (#28624425)
        I live in North Dakota, the generally really flat place that is boring as hell to drive through as there's no scenery. Trust me when I say that a wind farm really adds a lot to the landscape around here. That and at certain parts of the day they can look downright amazing. Here's an image [flickr.com] I found on Google image search to show you what I'm talking about. There are a few other really nice ones at well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by j0se_p0inter0 (631566)
        They look beautiful to me as well, because to me they look like money! I'm in the wind power industry in Texas, but not with GE. And I don't think Pickens is alone with the site woes. It seems everyone is having trouble picking a site in TX at the moment.
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:20PM (#28624863) Homepage

        I'll never get this notion of people talking about how wind turbines spoil the beautiful natural landscape. Natural landscape? What natural landscape? We destroyed the natural landscape of the south and midwest in the 1800s. The worst you can say is that it *changes* the *artificial* rural landscape we've become accustomed to. Personally, I like them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SCHecklerX (229973)

        I'm sure you prefer golf courses on every corner where forest used to be too. These things are as hideous as a strip mine to me.

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Funny)

        by jambox (1015589) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:30PM (#28625055)
        Agreed, I think they look futuristic. Also the pile of dead birds around them make me smile.
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Temujin_12 (832986) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:33PM (#28625107)

        Really, your argument against all the benefits harnessing wind power will bring is, "It looks ugly?"

        To me part of their beauty comes from what they symbolize--the beginning of the next era in human advancement where we learn to work with the planet to progress rather than exploit it. When I drive by wind turbines, all I can do is smile.

        As for the "not being able to connect them to the grid" part, makes me wonder if throwing all of that money at wall/auto street couldn't have been better spend elsewhere.

    • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

      by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:45AM (#28624213)

      These things are a great way to make a beautiful landscape hideous.

      As opposed to what, a coal plant?

      Never mind that they actually are better for the environment than anything else.

      Clean renewable energy is worse for the environment than radioactive waste? I understand that nuclear power is a viable alternative to coal and oil, and that it produces constant power and all that, but how is it better for the environment than wind?

      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#28624315)

        If it's radioactive, you can get energy from it.

        We just have these stupid laws because you COULD take that waste and turn it into a bomb. So rather than let someone potentially make a bomb, we decide to just take the highly radioactive stuff and bury it.

        If the laws were changed to take all that 'waste', reprocess it and shove it through the whole process again, and repeat until it's dead we could probably end up with 'waste' with half life in the decades instead of centuries.

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:01PM (#28624529) Journal

          Parent is right. PBS has a decent [pbs.org] interview which talks about this in language most people should be able to understand. The person being interviewed was the head of a project called the Integral Fast Reactor which was a new approach to recycling the 'waste'. Apparently the project was extremely successful in just about all of its goals (one of which was a focus on creating a new generation of significantly safer nuclear reactors), then canceled at the 11th hour by the Clinton administration in order to win brownie points with anti-nuclear factions of the Democratic party.

          • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

            by Tacvek (948259) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:13PM (#28625791) Journal

            Yes. The high points of the Integral Fast Reactor are that is will run on just about anything, including "spent" fuel from other reactors. It keeps processing fuel until there is nothing left to get from it. The result is a far smaller amount of radioactive waste than other plants. The radioactive waste produced will decay to the level of natural uranium radiation in only 200 years, which is worlds better than the thousands of years it takes for the "spent" fuel of current systems to decay.

            Fuel does not need to be precisely fabricated like in many other reactor designs. It can simply be cast into the correct shape.

            The reactor is not a serious proliferation concern, because once the fuel is started in the reactor it remains extremely radioactive until it is completely spent. The completely spent material is worthless is nuclear weapons, and militarily could only be useful for dirty bombs. However that risk exists with conventional reactor designs, and is even worse, because of the larger amount of waste produced by those designs.

            That is not to say that everything about this design is ideal. The cost per unit energy produced for this plant is somewhat higher than with conventional plants. That is because other plants are only retrieving the least expensive energy from the fuel, while this plant design wrings pretty much all the energy out of the fuel. This produces a problem for companies interesting in using such a design, since they need to be able to compete on cost per unit energy. If nuclear power plants had to pay for waste disposal in proportion to how long the fuel takes to decay, that would almost certainly offset this. Another small issue is that a few important components of the reactor have never been shown to be commercially viable at a large scale. There are also some safety concerns about the use of molten sodium in the reactor design.

            But all things considered it is a real shame the project was canceled just because it might appear at first to be a threat to anti-proliferation efforts, even though an explanation of the design would make it clear that constructing such a plant would reduce proliferation risk.

            • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

              by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:59PM (#28626623) Journal

              "The cost per unit energy produced for this plant is somewhat higher than with conventional plants."

              Why is that? Is it an inherent problem, or just something which could be resolved with further refinement of the design? Just how much more expensive? A little bit, or a lot? How does it compare with coal/oil/natural gas?

              "Another small issue is that a few important components of the reactor have never been shown to be commercially viable at a large scale."

              Weren't those remaining issues the ones they were about to work on when the project was cancelled? Seems to me we should at least re-start the DoE research on this, and get final answers to these questions. It may or may not be commercially viable at a large scale, so *why don't we try to find out*?

              "If nuclear power plants had to pay for waste disposal in proportion to how long the fuel takes to decay, that would almost certainly offset this."

              That, or once we have enough re-processing plants, just put a ban on refining any new enriched uranium, and shut down all the old reactors that required enriched uranium. (You would, of course, have to publish such a plan out with a timeframe so that investors in current plants and enrichment facilities would have 20 or 30 years [or however long is appropriate] to re-coup their investment, but refuse to license any new enrichment facilities or non-reprocessing nuclear plants. It's pretty easy to be cost competitive with power plants that aren't operating or were never built. It's pretty easy to justify investing in building newer, slightly more expensive power plants if you can't get a license to build the cheaper plants, and you know that all of the old style plants are going to be shutdown in 20 years. Even if you are more expensive, *right now*, if you are a power company, you will build the more expensive plants anyhow so that you are up and running before the old plant is shut down.

            • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

              by MrKaos (858439) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:35AM (#28636459) Journal

              The radioactive waste produced will decay to the level of natural uranium radiation in only 200 years, which is worlds better than the thousands of years it takes for the "spent" fuel of current systems to decay.

              Since it will be much more radioactive than the spent fuel products of PWR then it is likely to be 'shorter' half life than those. Though from other information I've read the 'fissile ash' of an IFR would take around 600 years to decay through all the daughter products. Now if only we could design an IFR reactor with an operational lifespan to match the decay characteristics of the spent fuel.

              Fuel does not need to be precisely fabricated like in many other reactor designs. It can simply be cast into the correct shape.

              The process is called "Pyroprocessing" and was a stage of the project that was not completed. It meant dissolving the spent fuel 'cartridge' of an IFR in an acid bath and using an electrolytic process to recover fissionable fuel. It was a significant component of the 'IFR' facility design which was meant to be contained completely underground. A 'Pyro-process' (a new type of fuel reprocessing facility) was planned to be sited with the reactor and fuel to and from the reactor facility went by underground tunnels. The fuel cartridges were to be made in a remote environment in an atmosphere of an inert gas (argon - I think). The idea, fissile material went into the facility and nothing comes out.

              The reactor is not a serious proliferation concern, because once the fuel is started in the reactor it remains extremely radioactive until it is completely spent...

              and decays through it's daughter products. The 'fissile ash' is very radioactive.

              However that risk exists with conventional reactor designs, and is even worse, because of the larger amount of waste produced by those designs....even though an explanation of the design would make it clear that constructing such a plant would reduce proliferation risk.

              IFR has three characteristics which make it a design worth developing

              Weapons grade Plutonium can be used as fuel
              Spent fuel from PWR can be used as fuel
              U-238, or depleted uranium can be used as fuel

              apart from the first two, being able to use up U-238 is a positive for this design. Unfortunately the IFR design is let down by current day materials technology - and the fact that a reactor of commercial scale would be cooled by roughly 60-100,000 tons of sodium. You want to make sure there is no chance of a leak *into* the system. Unless you could use a different type of metal the sodium is necessary to achieve the fuel burn-up rates of an IFR which are around 19% as opposed to the 0.3% of a PWR.

              If nuclear power plants had to pay for waste disposal in proportion to how long the fuel takes to decay, that would almost certainly offset this.

              If the containment facility was built in a mountain made of granite as opposed to a mountain made of pumice (as is the case of Yucca) there would be the basis of a responsible logistics and infrastructure plan to centralise the storage fuel for a potential IFR facility contained in the same mountain. Make no mistake though, despite the advances IFR offer, it would still be a dangerous beast to operate. The failure modes are undefined, the basis design issues are unknown as are the accident sequence precursors - all of which would require *significant* research and development to acquire data for. Breeder reactors are known to be fickle beasts with much shorter times to react to problems than PWR.

              That said though, it could be a viable long term plan rather than taking the 'Not in My Generation' (NIMG) attitude and just consuming electricity. Allowing 50 years to implement it is not and unreasonable way to address the issue of transuranic fuel containment

        • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Sheafification (1205046) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:49PM (#28625377)

          You're totally right about reprocessing fuel: if it's still (radioactively) hot then there is useful energy in there. But it's not right to say that we'd have waste with a half-life of decades instead of centuries. Radioactivity and half-life are inversely proportional. Something that is very radioactive has a short half-life (it's so active because it's decaying quickly). The more we reprocess the longer the half-life of the leftovers gets because we are taking out all the short half-life materials to be used as fuel. So after lots of reprocessing we'd more likely end up with waste that has a half-life in the millions of years than decades.

          But that's really okay, because long half-life things aren't all that radioactive. Given a long enough half-life, you could carry radioactive waste around in your pocket and never receive any radiation from it in your lifetime, just because it takes so long for it to decay at all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kozz (7764)

        Dude, I was driving an interstate through West Virginia a few days ago and saw a billboard that said, "Clean, carbon-neutral coal." So it must be true!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jbeaupre (752124)
      You missed a key point. They were going to be installed in Texas, improving the landscape.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by selven (1556643)
      Actually, wind is slightly better for the environment. ec.europa.eu/research/energy/pdf/externe_en.pdf [slashdot.org] no-download version [wordpress.com] But the point still stands, nuclear is as environmentally friendly as most conventional renewable energy and is the most economically practical of them all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbcad7 (771464)
      Well, after about 2 or 3 hours driving in the desert (or the middle of nowhere), it sometimes occurs to you that somebody should do something with some of this land.. I've seen these windmills in many places in the western states (California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and more) and all these states have some nice vistas, and I never felt that wow those windmills sure ruin it.
    • You get a hell of a lot more energy (several factor levels more) out of a pound of Uranium that you can from a pound of Oil or Coal.

      Why let those Uranium isotopes just sit in the soil and cause Radon Gas, put them atoms to some good use already dammit!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by orgelspieler (865795)
      Have you seen the "landscape" of West Texas? I lived there for years, but I never heard it called beautiful. If anything, I'd say that these things are a great way to make a depressingly monotonous landscape just a little bit interesting. Before this, the nicest thing a rancher could hope to see on his land was a pumpjack. Personally, I find the larger turbines strikingly beautiful, and I hope to see them dotting landscapes across the US.
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      I've seen thes things. They are in no way hideous. They are artificial, just like any other man made structure. More importantly, I love how people that don't own the property object to it being made hideous. Complaining about an innovation because you don't like the way it looks is the ULTIMATE in childish stupidity.
    • First of all, as others have pointed out, "hideous" is very subjective and many people, actually, like the way they look (especially in the desolate places that are being targeted for much of these facilities). Acreage means nothing. One of the nice things about wind turbines is that the actual footprint of the turbine is tiny. This means that almost all the land under turbine can be used for other things like park land or farming. There are already places where farmers are being payed rent in order to

    • by jridley (9305)

      I think they're quite pretty, I think it'd be awesome to have some in sight of my house. And they take up almost no space, the land around them can (and often is) still used for farming and other purposes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox (846076)

      Here's a crazy idea: how about nuclear power? Oh, that's right, the word "nuclear" is too super-scary for the science-based environmentalists. Never mind that they actually are better for the environment than anything else.

      Have you seen a nuclear power plant at night?

      Personally I like them, but in the same kind of way I like Fallout 3.

      I'm not sure about the neighbors who can see the thing from 10 miles away.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SpryGuy (206254)

      Nuclear power is a stop-gap solution.

      Sure it is "non-polluting" in that it doesn't generate tons of carbon emissions directly. But it requires fossil fuels to mine and refine the uranium ore, and uranium is a limited resource, just like oil. There's also the issue of what to do with and where to put the waste that is produced.

      I'm all for building new nuclear power plants to help meet demand without significantlly increasing greenhouse gasses or air pollution, but there are some basic facts to face regardi

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheSync (5291)

        uranium is a limited resource

        Thorium [wikipedia.org] is very abundant, and can be the basis of a long-term viable nuclear fission fuel cycle.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:40AM (#28624125) Journal
    Yaaaahhoooooooooooooooo!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:40AM (#28624127)

    Makes me think of the "Wind farm" scene in "Blazing Saddles", when Slim Pickens says "Boys, I think you'd had enough".

  • by happy_place (632005) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:45AM (#28624211) Homepage
    This is why we buy prototypes and work out the fascilities/infrastructure before we order hundreds of parts with no place too put them. Everyone always underestimates the need for a building for their new business plan...
    • by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:48AM (#28624269) Journal

      Interestingly, the article puts the blame on not being able to build the transmission lines he had planned (the article doesn't go into any detail as to why not). So, he *has* a place to put the turbines, technically, but doesn't want to put them there because he can't get transmission lines built.

      Part of me wonders if this 'announcement' is just a tactic to put political pressure on other parties that T. Boone needs to get concessions from in order to site his transmission lines.

  • And the steps... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:49AM (#28624301)

    Step 1: Reduce Refining Capacity through by-outs
    Step 2: Send out pundits to claim how high oil prices will go
    Step 3: Get price of oil/gas high enough that alternate energy starts to become profitable
    Step 4: Get people to invest lots of money on said technologies.
    Step 5: ????
    Step 6: Let the oil bubble burst and take the alternative energy markets with it.

    I'm not sure where profit goes in there, but this also happened in the late 1970's through early 1980's. Right when other means of fuel production came online and people had invested a lot of money in the new technologies, the price of oil suddenly dropped causing the alternatives to quickly go broke and effectively stifle competition for the next couple decades.

    Funny about that history not repeating itself, but sure does rhyme thing.

    This was told to me by a retired GM executive and friend of the family back in 2006/2007 when the price of oil kept going up. He even gave a prediction of that the price of oil would fall around 2008/2009 and when it did, any interest in alternate fuels would go with it. Seems like he may have known something.

  • I'll buy one! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by orgelspieler (865795) <w0lfie.mac@com> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#28624309) Journal
    I've only got about 30 grand, though, so I hope he doesn't mind taking a 99% loss. On a more cynical note, I can't help but wonder if this was all some ploy to discredit renewable energy.
  • by 2obvious4u (871996) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:52AM (#28624351)
    The ones already ordered are still being built.
    If gas prices go back up giving cost parity for wind, he plans to continue the plan.
    As we modernize the infrastructure he plans to continue; just the current infrastructure can't handle the increased load, so it is a waist.
    If it wasn't for the government created recession [house.gov] he would still be pressing forward.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:52AM (#28624361) Journal

    Dr. Strange Glove....
    .
    I have this mental image of T.Boone Pickens straddling one of the blades of a giant turbine as it goes round and round. He is strapped to it and screaming "Yee Haw" while waving around his Cowboy hat with one arm.
    .
    Then the Turbine blows up real good!
    .
    .

  • by stox (131684) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:54AM (#28624399) Homepage

    Most of Texas has its own grid, and is not very well connected with the neighboring grids. The cost of enabling that grid to distribute power to the rest of the country was far more than TBone expected. There are plenty of other places that are closer to the grid to locate his turbines.

  • Numbers? (Score:4, Funny)

    by zamboni1138 (308944) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:56AM (#28624431)

    So roughly $2.9M per turbine. Does that include shipping? Probably not. How long until I get a positive return on my investment? 10 years, 20? Come on man, I've got my bank on the other line.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:57AM (#28624457)

    'They've got to go someplace.' Pickens' company Mesa Power ordered the turbines from General Electric Co.

    1. Form new Mesa Power subsidiary called Black Mesa 2. Use extra wind generated power to open interdimensional gate 3. ??? 4. Half-Life!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PhxBlue (562201)

      Maybe you'll find someone else to help you.
      Maybe Black Mesa ... THAT WAS A JOKE, HA HA, FAT CHANCE.

      -- GLaDOS

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:00PM (#28624509)

    Wind power costs about 0.055 cents/kWh. Coal has been slowly rising and is about 0.03 cents/kWh right now. Wind power would be competitive with oil and gas plants -- if it were 1998. Today, it beats both answers. Here's the problem -- nuclear and coal are the only economical alternatives for base load plants, which handle 35-40% of the total electrical power generation in this country. Of the remainder, load-following and peak plants, wind power might be useful.

    The issue is, wind power is needs a lot of space to operate. And for aesthetic reasons, they need to be placed in fairly remote locations away from urban centers, which reduces efficiency. There are other geographical restrictions as well -- namely that the wind source must be fairly reliable. Electricity generated on an industrial scale can't be stored (for the most part). The grid must be designed to meet peak power requirements -- which means if you deploy wind power, you need a backup as well (such as gas turbine) -- wind power isn't a replacement in the majority of cases; It's a cost-reducing add-on.

    A kWh of wind power is the cost of that infrastructure plus maintenance costs of the backup gas turbine infrastructure, when operating. The economic result here is that deploying wind power to provide a cheaper supplement to existing gas turbine and oil peak plants is viable in a few markets. But such deployment will happen slowly, over many years, as the cost of maintaining existing infrastructure exceeds the cost of building and operating new infrastructure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wisty (1335733)

      Wind IS a base load replacement. Demand for power fluctuates, just like wind supply. It doesn't matter whether you are using coal, nuclear, or wind for you "base" power, you still need gas power plants (or other easy to control plants - maybe hydro) to smooth the difference between supply and demand. The only difference between wind and coal is that the standard deviation of the signal is a little bit larger (so you need another gas plant to provide more smoothing).

      The lower reliability of wind means that i

  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:03PM (#28624561) Homepage

    The collapse of the Cap & Trade scheme.

    Woohoo!

  • Turbines en route (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ponga (934481) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:11PM (#28624707)
    I live is Southern AZ where Interstate 10 runs and a road which I am driving on often. Over the last few months I've noticed a steady flow of "oversize load"s on the freeway that contain rather large wind turbine components heading eastbound, presumably heading to TX from somewhere in CA. Perhaps these are Mr. Pickens, but who knows. Bottom line is there sure have been a lot of these steadily flowing through AZ...
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:15PM (#28624779) Homepage

    I went to a talk by Pickens, and I think he's losing it. He didn't mention wind at all. He was talking about how natural gas is going to solve all our energy problems, and how we just have to convert heavy trucks to run on natural gas. He's far more optimistic about natural gas supplies than most people in the industry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Um no... this was always in the "Pickens Plan." [pickensplan.com] Wind is only one half of it. Moving vehicles over to natural gas (it's the only energy he thinks could displace oil in vehicles in a relatively short amount of time) is the second half.

      You could have a good argument over your comment about whether he is overly optimistic about our supplies of natural gas though.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:19PM (#28624843) Homepage Journal

    CNN is reporting the project is "On hold" not "scrapped". [cnn.com] They also reports the wind equipment that has been bought is going to be used.

    There is a big difference between "On Hold" and "Scrapped".

  • Cover story? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dracos (107777) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:22PM (#28624907)

    There were some rumors shortly after Pickens announced this wind farm scheme that it was really a cover for a water rights land grab. What else could this mean?

    • Re:Cover story? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:31PM (#28625057)

      I remember reading those stories and I don't really doubt it because water is drying up in the west. You don't hear much about it, but water rights and who controls the water is going to be a deal and make someone very rich over the next 25 - 30+ years. Actually that goes for the entire world. Anyone take notice of how many dams have been built around Iraq in the past few years by Turkey and Iran?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:35PM (#28625139)
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:51PM (#28625409)

    I'm fairly certain that Pickens is in this for the money... whether the money comes from oil or renewable energy, I don't think he particularly cares.

    Why is it oil people are made out to be haters of renewable energy? They just want money, they don't have a love for black oily gunk. If Pickens can make money from renewable energy, then he'll do it. Seems pretty easy to understand to me. I doubt he just loves oil.

    I also don't quite understand the "We need more clean energy" sentiment combined with the "We don't want to pay for our clean energy" and "We don't want an oil guy creating our clean energy" sentiments. It seems that we want clean energy, for free, and have it have nothing to do with a company that previously dealt with Awful Wicked Oil (tm).

    I'm all for renewable energy... but it does need to be economical, and the supply needs to come from demand. And I don't want these sorts of projects flopping after MY money was used in it... e.g., I'm supportive of oil "barons" like Pickens doing these projects, not the government. Why? Because that's the whole point of private enterprise. Taking risks. Making it work. And if it works and someone gets rich from it, good for them. I won't complain. Unless I start getting forced to use it and THAT'S why someone gets rich. Which, unfortunately, appears to be the way a lot of people want it to go...

    Oh well. I'm probably just cynical because I like large "cars" and don't want to spend $20k more to have it be electric or hybrid... or not spend that much more money and drive on the freeways [with crazy drunk people] in a plastic coffin :)

  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:08PM (#28625705)

    You may want to update the story summury:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/31802460 [cnbc.com]

    "I didn't cancel it," Pickens said after a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Financing is tough right now and so it's going to be delayed a year or two."

  • bullshit alert. (Score:4, Informative)

    by dotmax (642602) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:00PM (#28626643)
    FTA: "In Texas, the problem lies in getting power from the proposed site in the Panhandle to a distribution system, Pickens said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York. He'd hoped to build his own transmission lines but he said there were technical problems." If he could put together an order for 687 gigantor windmills, he goddamned-well knew _exactly_ where they were going to go and exactly, to the foot, how many feet/miles away the nearest 345kV line was. (substitute appropiate buzzaords). Or whatever. Engineering power distrubition is complicated and painstaking, but it's also fairly cut and dried. What "technical" issue could there possibly be here? was he planning to build a giant Tesla coil?? Sounds like bullshit to me, and i think bullshit like this does enormous damage to the credibility and viability of alt. energy. Political, environmental or financial problems i would accept at face value, but not technical power distribution problems.

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