Wind farms and polar bears

In a world that is clamoring for ever more electricity while the pools of easily accessed oil grow smaller, how are we gonna power our homes and the precious gizmos within? More and more of us are embracing the notion that there have to be alternative, non-oil, non-polluting, non-greenhouse gas belching ways to get the job done. We tire of talk of coal, coal and coal. Jesus Christ, we shriek, when are you fat cats with the big dough gonna get over the goddamned coal and at least dabble in some alternatives?

Well, there’s breaking news.

For a while now, Tim Carlson has been trying to get a wind farm going somewhere in Nevada. A real wind farm. Back in November, Carlson got some very good news from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who announced he had no objection to Carlson’s plans to construct a 450 megawatt zephyr-tamer in the Wilson Creek area of eastern Nevada. Gates made this announcement shortly after having an arm-twisting lunch with Harry Reid. This means Carlson and his company have cleared a very large hurdle. (The DOD gets real touchy with large wind turbines complicating military training runs over Great Basin air space, this in addition to the fact that it’s not exactly a bastion of progressive thought in the first place).

Wilson Creek is way out there, about halfway between the towns of Ely and Pioche along Highway 93. If Carlson can get this thing built, there will be substantial wind power coming out of this facility. One megawatt supplies enough electricity to power 750 homes, so we’re talking about juice for approximately 335,000 homes. Between Pioche and Ely, there are maybe 5,000 homes. Maybe. So Carlson will have a lot of power to sell. Chances are pretty good he’ll be making something beyond chump change with that product.

Nevada, by the way, is not the wind treasure you might think. Our state has much more potential for massive solar output than it does wind. As Sierra Pacific’s wind manager puts it, “we have to look hard for sites that have enough strength of resource to make a project viable.” Translation—wind sites that will blow consistently enough to put black ink on the books are few and far between.

But just because practical wind sites aren’t common, that doesn’t mean Sierra Pacific isn’t looking. In fact, it recently announced that it will actually give wind a go—a 200-megawatt plant in the northeast corner of the state, near the town of Jackpot.

And—this just in—Wall Street fat cat bad ass T. Boone Pickens just announced that he’s ready to roll with the breeze. He’s talking about his company, Mesa Power, investing $10 billion to build the largest wind farm in the country, a complex of turbines stretching from Saskatchewan to Texas and capable of generating 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

If a guy like T. Boone is now in the game, who knows? Maybe the polar bears won’t die, after all.