A Modern-Day Spindletop: How One Entrepreneur Exemplifies The Renewable Energy Boom In Texas

Michael Skelly’s vision is to create and transport clean, affordable energy.

By Alexandra HartJune 25, 2019 2:19 pm,

The new book, “Superpower: One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy,” traces a Houston wind developer’s role in the Texas renewable energy boom. 

Austin-based Wall Street Journal reporter Russell Gold says Harvard graduate Michael Peter Skelly was looking for interesting work after building trams in Costa Rica. 

“He decided he wanted to get into this new industry that was emerging, called renewable energy and started building wind farms,” Gold says. 

Gold says Skelly is no hippie, and like his oil-barren counterparts, he walks the walk of a high-powered businessperson. But instead of drilling for oil and gas, Skelly looked for ways to distribute cleaner, cheaper energy. Skelly partnered with members of the Zilkha family – who had their own success in the music and oil industries – streamlining an industry that had come of age after being dominated by awkward, clunky, bird-killing turbines. 

“The European turbines are coming in – the ones you see if you drive out to West Texas and they start building that,” Gold says.

Gold says Skelly’s endeavors fit the mold of Texans who know how to do energy, but that he stands out as a producer of clean, renewable energy. 

“There’s a lot of money to be made in renewables right now,” Gold says. “This is not some subsidized thing that maybe is gonna work.” 

Gold says part of the “Superpower” story is about the evolving infrastructure of renewable energy projects. Skelly’s vision was to transport renewable energy to places where it can not be produced.

“How do we connect?” Gold says. “What’s the Interstate 10 of electricity?”

Gold says the transformation of Texas into a leading wind energy producer reflect the bigger picture and the future of power generation. 

“The whole second half of the book is this fascinating story of creating a company, running into incumbents, trying to figure out how to get around the incumbents, how to make a vision come true,” Gold says. 

Written by Geronimo Perez.