Wind energy industry continues expansion
RUSH SPRINGS – Blowing winds will likely continue to bring investment into Oklahoma’s energy sector. Both the physical and political landscape will determine how much the wind power industry will grow in 2017.One signal is an Italian company’s achievement in 2016. Enel Green Power North America recently brought online two more wind farms in Oklahoma.
Its 108-megawatt project Drift Sand near Rush Springs could generate as much as 480 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually. The Chisholm View II project in Grant and Garfield counties adds 65 MW, expanding the existing Chisholm View I project to 300 MW.
Enel has 1 gigawatt of installed capacity in Oklahoma.
Jim Roth, attorney for the trade group the Wind Coalition, said the state’s wind resources will continue to attract investment from other states and from around the world. Oklahoma’s incentives for the wind industry also help make the industry compete against surrounding states for projects, he said.
New projects will push the state in 2017 to become the third in the nation in installed wind power capacity, up from fourth, Roth said.
“It’s nice to see Oklahoma win in the wind game,” he said.
There is more supply than consumers need in the state, but utilities from Missouri and Kansas and industrial customers in Texas are investing in new Oklahoma wind farms.
“Just like we export two-thirds of our natural gas, we’ll soon be able to export our wind to other states,” he said.
Law professor Gary Allison said investment in new wind farms could be stalled if the Legislature decides to cut tax incentives to the sector. Though the industry has made great strides in lowering equipment prices, tax credits also play a role in outside firms’ decisions to expand in Oklahoma, said Allison, the University of Tulsa’s sustainable energy and resources law program director. Roth said he was hopeful legislators understand the bigger picture of how much value wind farms can play.
“When these projects come online, they become the largest taxpayer in the county,” Roth said.
Jason Aamodt, attorney with the Tulsa-based Indian and Environmental Law Group PLLC, said geography is critical for future wind farm expansion. Most locations with the best wind resources already have wind farms.
“You will see wind development in more urban areas, and that will lead to increasing conflict,” he said.
Aamodt represented landowners who brought lawsuits against wind developers, alleging turbines were too close to homes. One case with Okarche-area landowners was dismissed for procedural reasons. But the door is still open for litigation, he said.
“My clients’ underlying factual issues remain,” Aamodt said. “Those (could be) resolved on another day, in another lawsuit.”