Blowin' in the wind: T. Boone Pickens has a Minnesota-friendly energy strategy

T. Boone Pickens's solution to the oil crisis blows. Literally. Which might be good news for Minnesota.

A towering figure in the petroleum industry, Boone has a bone to pick with oil dependency. His proposed solution seems surprising coming from an oilman -- wind power -- but should the Pickens plan to invest in alternative energy strategies gain traction, it might help boost Minnesota's existing wind initiatives.

The numbers are impressive. Minnesota ranks third among all U.S. states in installed wind power capacity, behind just California and Pickens' Texas. Just Iowa is ahead of Minnesota in percentage of electricity generated by wind.

Pickens' plan pitches more funding and tax breaks for wind power investment, which could help fuel that momentum. Despite Minnesota being ahead of the curve on wind power, plenty of room to grow exists: in terms of potential power, the state is top ten nationally.

There's more to the idea:

Getting lots more electricity with wind is only half of the Pickens Plan. Increasing wind-power production by itself won't reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil because most of that oil is consumed as gasoline.

The key, Pickens says, is that wind energy can be used as a substitute for natural gas now burned to generate electricity. That, in turn, will make far more natural gas available for use as a transportation fuel. Pickens' plan is to produce enough wind power within 10 years to divert 20% of the natural gas now used to fuel power plants for use in cars and trucks. That's much more aggressive a growth plan for the development of wind energy than envisioned by the Depart of Energy, which doesn't expect the USA to be getting 20% of its total energy needs from wind until at least 2030.

Regardless of Pickens, Minnesota moves forward. Xcel's Grand Meadow wind power station is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The American Wind Energy Association already ranks Xcel as the nation's top investor-owned utility.

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