RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – T. Boone Pickens is synonymous with oil, so when the Texas billionaire warns that his homeland is too dependent on foreign oil people listen.
To back his words, he is building the world’s largest wind farm in Texas. But don’t forget this fact when praising Pickens for his move to renewable power – the farm isn’t being built in his own backyard. Make that ranch, as in 68,000 acres.
“I’m not going to have the windmills on my ranch. They’re ugly,” he told Fast Company magazine in its June issue. “The hub of each turbine is up to 280 feet, and then you have a 120-foot radius of the blade. It’s the size of a 40-story building.”
In other words, one – just one – windmill would be taller than the three skyscrapers that adorn the Raleigh skyline. Imagine hundreds of them – no, thousands – spread across the landscape.
Duke Energy has embraced wind power in a big way with recent acquisitions. But some folks in North Carolina don’t want windmills off our coast or on the Blue Ridge, either. So it is apparent eye pollution comes ahead of going green on some people’s priority lists. But, hey, at least Pickens is showing leadership even if he’s a NIMBY (not in my back yard), and he’s relying on free enterprise and technology, not government handouts or subsidies such as is the case with ethanol.
Pickens announced in New York on Wednesday an initiative that if implemented would slash U.S. dependence on foreign oil, keep trillions of dollars at home, and help trigger manufacturing of natural-gas powered vehicles.
“With all my experience, I’ve never been as worried about our energy security as I am now,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal column today. “Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II.
“The problem, of course, is our growing dependence on foreign oil – it’s extreme, it’s dangerous, and it threatens the future of our nation.”
Pickens received national TV exposure Tuesday night for his idea, and he is running ads to support his plan. However, he’s not doing the wind power dance out of patriotism alone. Here’s what he told Fast Company when asked if his concerns were about money or the environment:
“Money! First thing, it’s about money. Of course, I’m also a good environmentalist. I can pass the saliva test.”
He noted the wind farm will cost around $10 billion. It will include more than 2,000 turbines with each capable of producing two to three megawatts of electricity.
To publicize his cause, the 80-year-old has embraced the latest technology, such as Facebook and YouTube. And to his credit he is relying on himself.
"It’s 100 percent Boone’s money," Pickens told The Associated Press. "I don’t have any partners in this."
So Pickens is off and running on the wind – just not on his ranch. Good for him. But what happens when someone wants to plant a tower near his property line?
As the energy debate intensifies in coming months, the NIMBY problem is one that will loom ever larger. A lot of people will say this: “Energy independence sounds good – just make it happen somewhere else.”
What will you say?