Developers have invested more than $6 billion in wind farm construction in Oklahoma and the state now ranks sixth in the nation in the amount of wind energy generated for consumers, according to a new study released Wednesday that was commissioned by The Wind Coalition.
The study found that construction and operation of wind farms between 2003 and 2012 produced more than $1 billion in products and services in the state, more than 4,000 jobs in wind energy and supporting industries, and a labor income of more than $340 million.
The study by Economic Impact Group, LLC, an independent consulting firm, demonstrates that the industry has had a statewide economic impact and that wind energy is no longer “alternative energy,” said Curt Roggow, director of The Wind Coalition Oklahoma. About 15 percent of the electricity generated in Oklahoma comes from wind power.
“Oklahoma possesses a considerable wind resource, the benefits of which accrue beyond lower energy prices to consumers,” Roggow said.
“That really is the future,” said Michael Teague, Gov. Mary Fallin’s secretary of energy and environment. “We’re going to continue to see more wind projects.”
Oklahoma’s 26 active wind farms produce enough energy to power nearly 770,000 homes a year.
The study says Oklahoma’s wind farms have more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity.
The study also demonstrates the economic impact the industry has had on local communities, especially in rural areas in western Oklahoma where many of the state’s largest wind farms are located.
Property improvements by the wind energy industry will provide more than $43 million in property taxes each year to municipalities and school districts. In addition, the projects provide more than $22 million a year in payments to local landowners and $15 million in direct wages to local workers.
“It’s amazing what it’s done for rural Oklahoma,” said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. “The cows do better in the shade of those windmills.”
Wind energy developers also benefit from state tax incentives related to wind power. Figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission indicate that wind power developers received more than $44 million in tax incentives last year, including $32 million from a five-year manufacturing property tax exemption.
Oklahoma wind energy projects range in capacity from 40 to 300 megawatts, with the average facility incorporating 68 turbines to produce 130 megawatts of energy.
Wind energy officials also expressed opposition to Senate-passed legislation that would impose a moratorium on the construction of wind energy facilities east of Interstate 35 through Jan. 1, 2017. The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, is currently in the House Energy and Aerospace Committee.
“We’re opposed to any kind of moratorium on wind development,” said Roggow, a former state representative from Enid. Supporters of the bill say the wind energy industry is relatively unregulated and that more study is needed. Opponents say the moratorium will put a chilling effect on a rapidly growing industry.
Roggow said information developed by the study will help policymakers and elected officials understand the importance wind energy has in the state and forecast its potential impact.
“As this industry grows, it is important to understand the economic impact wind energy has on Oklahoma now and the potential it has to meet our future energy and economic needs,” he said.