Why two American billionaires are betting on renewable energy
According to a couple of American billionaires, the future of the energy grid looks very green. Philip Anschutz, of oil and entertainment industry wealth, is hoping to build what would become America’s largest wind farm in Wyoming. What’s more, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, a large player in renewable energy, wants to build expansive power lines that would bring solar and wind energy to consumers in the West.
Sammy Roth has been following the future of the western energy grid in a series for the Desert Sun.
Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Roth about why green energy is so enticing for Anschutz and Buffett and what obstacles there are to switching over to renewables. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: First thing I need you to do is set the scene for me. Tell me about this ranch out in Wyoming, basically the size of the city of Los Angeles. Right?
Sammy Roth: It is enormous. You know, you get there, and you just cannot believe that this is one property, one ranch. It’s owned by this guy, Philip Anschutz, one of the richest people in the United States, and it’s mostly empty. They’ve got some cattle running on it, but it’s mostly empty, and it was covered in snow when I was there in December, and it is super windy.
Ryssdal: Well, which explains why Anschutz wants to put giant wind turbines up there and then sell, basically, into the California market, is what he’s trying to do.
Roth: Yeah, that’s right. So he happened to own this ranch, and they were looking to sell it about 10 years ago, and then one of the guys who worked for him had this great idea of “Hey, you know this is one of the windiest spots in the continental United States. We could build a pretty big wind farm here.” And so they’ve been working on it for 10 years. They want to build 1,000 turbines, which would be the biggest wind farm by far in the country. And they would like to build a 730-mile power line just dedicated to this project to transmit that electricity to California, which wants it.
Ryssdal: California and its 39, whatever it is, million people. Right?
Roth: Yeah. 39 [million] compared to about 500,000 or 600,000 in Wyoming. They just don’t have the population there to even use that energy.
Ryssdal: Anschutz made his money in part in oil. Wyoming is a big, big oil and gas and coal state. They are not taking fondly, the Wyoming-ans, to this development, are they?