Green Profits

The Guardian has a story about legendary oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, and his massive investment in wind energy in Texas. Featured is an important quote: “Don’t get the idea that I’ve turned green,” Pickens tells the Guardian in the Dallas offices of his new venture Mesa Power. “My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money.”

Here in Indiana, we do not have the wind that west Texas enjoys (I bet they didn’t enjoy it much until now). Nor do we have an ocean, or major geothermal potential, nor a dependable amount of solar power. Hydroelectric dams have been shown to have major consequences, so I doubt if we will see more of those. Indiana will either need to depend on our neighbors for our energy, or diversify our renewable investment. Perhaps we will need to do both. Is there a T. Boone Pickens out there for diversification? Or will this need to be a major group effort? Fortunately, it looks like the profit motivation may be there for such an investment.

Comments 11

  • Indiana does not lack wind or sun or water. We are well-positioned for life in the 21st century.

    Perhaps we can persuade our next 7th District representative to promote a new solar-power tax credit at the household or single business location level.

  • I’m not saying we lack it, however, they might not exist at the scale we will need. Every map I’ve seen has shown Indiana to be near the low-end of each renewable energy category. Fortunately, with diversification may come stability, instead of putting all of our eggs into the wind basket.

    I’m down with your idea, though. I’m thinking of installing a solar panel for the water heater this summer.

    Here’s some maps:

  • I almost missed it too but a huge windfarm is on the books to break ground in the near future. I believe it is South of Winchester. There are to be 50-100 windmills 260 ft tall.

  • That’s great. The article also mentions a larger project in Benton County.

  • I’d like to hear you extrapolate on the “major consequences” of hydroelectric dams. I hear a company is looking to build one off the Ohio in Southern Indiana. Something around 100 MW. Kentucky says they are worried about fish, but I don’t know the manner in which modern-day hydro plants work.

  • Speed, I could have answered that question better about a decade ago after taking a course on lake and watershed management. They may be building them differently now, however.

    I think a cliff notes explanation would be that dams change river habitats, as well as piling up silt, which needs to be dredged occasionally.

  • The Ohio is already dammed with navigation locks in many places.

    A dam can be “low head” (i.e. not very tall) and as long as it maintains water flow across the turbines it will produce electricity. The turbine blades, however, do act as a fish cuisinart.

  • Thanks thunder. I knew there were dams on the Ohio, but I’m not familiar with the style.

  • Excellent info. What about these submersible turbines and such that they are testing in the Thames in London and in New York? Personally, I think there are better options, but they are not politically palpable. And today politics runs the energy industry, so we can’t hope of anything too innovative. But I think a system of either hydro dams or possibly some of these “river turbines” could give us somewhere in the 250-300 MW range long term.

    And as much as I love the opportunity for the government to say I owe them less money, I think a tax credit may be premature at our latitude. Efficiencies for PV units would need to be in the 35-40% range before a solar setup could become economical for the average homeowner. Actually, if you want these types of setups to get off the ground once solar technology hits its stride, there is one simple thing to advocate: end the federal and state subsidization of the energy industry. If power companies were forced to sell their electricity at true market rates, people would have an interest in investing in power conservation and off-grid power options. Also, allowing power companies to sell electricity at peak hours at a higher per-KW/h rate would at the same time decrease the stress on max capacity for production and transmission, as well as provide additional net funds above operating costs to capitalize new projects to move away from legacy production facilities.

  • Speedblue, I don’t think the market is ready for true market-pricing for electricity yet because all states do not have de-regulated rate structures in place.

    When I mentioned “solar” I was thinking more of solar domestic hot water and thermal-mass heat-exchange heating.

    If our grid would accept backward-turning meters, we could probably make PV work in Indiana. Consider that the sunniest days in summer are the worst for AC peak demand.

  • This morning’s Star had a number of interesting stories about “green” practices, including a feature on the Ecology House project in Herron Morton Place.

    The year-round heating, cooling, and electric bills run $75 per month for a 1600 sq. ft. house…amazingly low in the city compared to old houses. But that place is new construction, so its standard is only applicable to other new construction.

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