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Oilman Pickens places big bet on Texas wind farm

New York_Maverick oilman Boone Pickens has placed a $2 billion bet on wind power in just the first of a four-phase project to build the world's largest wind farm in Texas.

Pickens says the cost of the deal will grow considerably after the initial investment in General Electric (GE) turbine technology.

Pickens' Mesa Power says the Pampa Wind Project in the Texas Panhandle will eventually cover 400,000 acres and generate enough power for more than 1.3 million homes.

"We are making Pampa the wind capital of the world," Pickens said. "It's clear that landowners and local officials understand the economic benefits that this renewable energy can bring not only to landowners who are involved with the project, but also in revitalizing an area that has struggled in recent years."

Pickens, who was born in nearby Oklahoma and made the early part of his fortune hunting for oil and natural gas, said developing alternative energy projects is critical for the nation's future.

"You find an oilfield, it peaks and starts declining, and you've got to find another one to replace it," Pickens said. "With wind, there's no decline curve."

Power from the project will begin coming on line in early 2011, he said.

GE is expected to deliver 667, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines in 2010 and 2011.

"As America's demand for energy escalates, it is clear that wind can and will play a bigger part in meeting that need," said Jeffrey Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO. "We're excited to partner with an energy visionary like T. Boone Pickens to bring our wind technology to the marketplace."

But the industry has relied on federal tax credits to survive, a point Pickens underscored Thursday.

"I believe that Congress will recognize that it is critical not only to this project, but to renewable energy in this country, that they enact a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credits," Pickens said.

Oil prices hit a trading record near $127 a barrel Tuesday.

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