It was a sight I will not soon forget.
Several years ago, I was able to climb to the top of an industrial wind turbine near Hinton. Once I was securely fastened to the roof, I stood up to survey my surroundings.
I saw more than 140 wind turbines from that vantage point, but I was able to count only six company pickups across the expanse of that wind farm.
That was when it became clear to me that wind development was not delivering the economic bounty that had been promised to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has paid hundreds of millions to out-of-state wind companies that have failed to produce jobs or income to our state. These companies, which typically come into Oklahoma from other states or even other countries, have erected more than 3,400 wind turbines, with applications to build thousands more.
They have paid no sales tax on the components that make up these wind farms. The state of Oklahoma pays their property tax bill for five years, while wind developers double-dip on generous subsidies provided by the state and federal governments for generation of emissions-free electricity.
As a result, Oklahoma is now third in the nation in wind capacity. But it is the only state in the top 10 still offering a production tax credit for new wind farms. Oklahoma also is the only one of the top six wind-producing states with such a credit not to put some kind of cap on it.
This 10-year credit – half a cent per megawatt of electricity – sounds small, but Oklahoma could be on the hook for billions of dollars due to continued wind expansion, paying these amounts till 2030. A planned high-voltage power line could easily double the number of wind turbines in Oklahoma.
Legislation to cut off the subsidy on July 1 passed the Oklahoma House and a Senate committee, potentially saving the state billions of dollars, but lawmakers still must contend with an army of pro-wind lobbyists before casting the decisive votes.
Our state has many other needs, from education to infrastructure repairs, more important than subsidizing the mature wind industry. Please reach out to your legislators to make sure they make the right decision on this critical issue.
We owe a better future to Oklahoma’s kids.
Cliff Branan is executive director of the Windfall Coalition, whose aim is to end all wind subsidies in Oklahoma.