As the United States transitions to renewable energy sources — by ecological choice or economic necessity — there will be events that future historians will undoubtedly characterize as critical turning points. More than likely, one of these is the planned development of the world's largest wind farm, by oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens. It may seem odd that a lifelong oilman will be investing a significant portion of his fortune in wind power, as an explicit alternative to our traditional energy source of oil. Or, it may also seem completely logical, given his knowledge and decades-long experience in the energy business, as well as his strong conviction that the U.S. is dangerously dependent upon foreign oil sources, and our reliance upon that oil continues to drain approximately $700 billion per year out of the country.
Unlike the vague and optimistic energy proposals of most members of the U.S. Congress, the Pickens Plan is concrete and clear-cut: He will be investing billions of dollars in creating the new wind farm, located in Texas. The project will initially purchase more than 600 wind turbines, manufactured by General Electric, and scheduled for delivery in 2010. They will be capable of generating a combined 1000 megawatts, which is just the first step towards an eventual goal of 4000 megawatts — enough to power 1.3 million homes — by the end of 2015. The generated power will go into a transmission line, which will tie into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas system, and from there be transmitted downstate.
Pickens sees the proposed plan as beneficial for all Americans. Each landowner who hosts one of the turbines on their property, will receive approximately $20,000 every year in royalty income. It will be a positive for the environment, since wind energy is clean and renewal. In a CNN.com article, Pickens argues that we should take advantage of the entire wind corridor that extends northward from Pampa, Texas, up to the Canadian border. Every 640-acre tract can host anywhere from five to 10 such wind turbines. He points to Germany and Spain as examples of countries doing it right, particularly as they do not have as much wind as the United States.
Research suggests that Pickens and others like him are on the right path. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, released in April 2007, indicates that 20 percent of the country's electricity could be generated from wind power. A Stanford University study, released in 2005, contends that 20 percent of the world's wind energy would be sufficient to provide seven times the world's current electricity needs.
Projects such as the one proposed by Pickens, are far more promising than the only wind currently being generated by Congress — useless hot air.