wind

A wind turbine under assembly near Balko in Oklahoma's Panhandle. When completed, the turbine will be part of D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments' 300-megawatt Balko Wind Project.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The wind energy boom has largely evaded Oklahoma’s Panhandle, but new turbine projects and a proposal for a $2 billion transmission line could transform the prairie into a national wind energy hub.

But the projects are being planned amid uncertainty at the state Capitol, where tax credits for the wind industry are in the crosshairs.

FILLING IN THE TRANSMISSION GAP

Despite being one of the state’s richest sources of wind energy, the Oklahoma Panhandle is home to very few wind farms.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The American Wind Energy Association says Oklahoma ranks fourth in the nation for wind capacity.

The Oklahoman reports the state moved up two spots in the rankings after adding 648 megawatts of wind capacity in 2014. Oklahoma now has 3,782 megawatts of wind capacity.

NextEra Renewable Energy Resources' wind farm near Elk City, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2015 session is still months away, but the newly elected Oklahoma Legislature has already started talking about how to divvy up roughly $7 billion in state appropriations.

Some prominent lawmakers are promising to re-examine tax credits and economic incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those incentives are used for wind energy, which the industry says are working.

Big Wind

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The cost of producing and providing electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines has plunged in recent years, and are on track to meet — and in some markets are already beating — the generation costs of conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

A wind farm in Ellis County in western Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A trade association says wind power saved electricity customers in Oklahoma and surrounding states more than $1.2 billion last year.

The Oklahoman reports that the American Wind Energy Association analyzed hourly data from the Southwest Power Pool in 2013 and calculated when wind turbines were used to generate electricity.

The pool operates the electric grid and plans transmission for 6.2 million households in parts of nine states.

Bonnie Vculek
Enid News & Eagle

Key industry tax breaks in Oklahoma have more than doubled over the past four years and are now costing the state well over half a billion dollars a year, state records show.

The two dozen business tax breaks combined grew from $356 million in 2010 to $760 million in 2014. The 2014 figure is equivalent to just over 10 percent of the state’s $7.2 billion budget, and more than the state spends every year on prisons and public safety.

Rocky Sun / Flickr.com

A district judge has ordered Osage County to approve a wind farm development.

The Board of Adjustment refused earlier this year to grant a permit for TradeWind Energy Inc.'s Mustang Run project, which would build 68 wind turbines in the northeastern Oklahoma county.

The Tulsa World reports the company sued the board, and District Judge Robert Haney sided with them on Wednesday.

Frank Robson, a wind farm opponent and property developer from Claremore, Okla., at an Oct. 21 Senate hearing on tax incentives for the wind industry.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Members of the state Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on Tuesday from the wind industry and a representative of a group of property owners pushing for stricter regulation of wind farms.

The Senate study centered on the cost-benefit of tax credits and incentives used by the wind industry. Supporters said Oklahoma’s incentives attract projects that might otherwise be built in other states with similar wind potential, including sites in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas.

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the ongoing debate about Oklahoma’s wind industry and whether it needs stricter regulation, two types of property owners have been the most vocal: those who hate the idea of turbines next door, and those eager to lease land to a wind company.

But there’s a voice that’s been largely absent from the discussion so far: Landowners who have wind farms and like them.

Family, Factory

Oklahoma is the nation's fourth-largest generator of wind energy. But wind developers in the northeast corner of the state, where the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve lies, are up against stiff opposition from an unlikely pair of allies: environmentalists and oil interests.

Bob Hamilton, director of the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, has been fighting to block construction of a 68-turbine wind farm.

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