The following editorial was presented in the April 13, 2014 edition of The Oklahoman, penned by Curt Roggow. Roggow, of Hillsdale, Oklahoma, is the Oklahoma public policy director for The Wind Coalition, a nonprofit association that encourages development of wind energy resources in the south-central United States. He is a former Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
As a lifetime Oklahoman and former legislator, I’ve seen how our energy industry has grown and diversified. Wind energy is now a leading factor in the drive for energy independence nationwide and a huge economic driver for Oklahoma.
The state consistently ranks in the top 10 for wind energy statistics. It has the potential to climb even higher. Wind energy companies want to come here. According to “The Statewide Economic Impact of Wind Energy Development in Oklahoma ” a study released in late March by the Economic Impact Group (EIG), wind farm developers invested more than $6.1 billion in the development and construction of wind farms during the industry’s first decade in Oklahoma.
This astronomical growth has led to $1 billion in Oklahoma production of goods and services. If we want this stellar growth to continue, we must support the wind energy industry as it develops new technology that makes the most of Oklahoma wind.
The EIG study reported multiple economic benefits provided by wind energy. Property improvements made by developers created a tax base that will provide more than $42 million in property taxes annually to Oklahoma municipalities and school districts. Wind projects provided more than $22 million annually in payments to local landowners and approximately $15 million in direct wages to local workers.
The proof is in the results. In 2008, while most of the country faced a devastating economic downturn, Oklahoma fared better than most. This was largely due to Oklahoma’s robust energy sector, for which wind energy was and continues to be a major player.
The EIG study estimates that from 2003-2012, wind energy created more than $340 million in Oklahoma labor income and more than 4,000 total jobs, with more than 1,600 of those being direct, full-time jobs.
We currently generate more than 3,000 megawatts of wind energy. That’s enough to power nearly a million homes. We must work harder to grow and sustain the wind energy industry.
The benefits of this resource have only been tapped by developers. Wind power is no longer “alternative energy” It’s a mainstream, reliable and cost-effective source that fuels Oklahoman’s daily lives.