Western Oklahoma is on the forefront of U.S. wind energy development, and has been for more than a decade. But as wind farm projects creep east, they’re meeting more resistance from landowners and increased involvement from the state legislature.
On Feb. 14, StateImpact reported on the current effort to strengthen laws that require wind energy companies to pay for the decommissioning of turbines, and limit the distance turbines can be from homes without consent from homeowners.
That bill passed out of the Senate Energy Committee, and on Thursday, that same committee passed Senate Bill 1440, which would put a moratorium on the construction of any new wind farms east of Interstate 35 until 2017.
From The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:
Several wind farms are under various stages of development east of Interstate 35, including one in Craig County by EDP Renewables North America that has drawn opposition by the Oklahoma Property Rights Association.
… [Senate President Pro Tempore Brian] Bingman said the bill is still a work in progress and may be refined to better describe areas that could come under a moratorium.
Bingman told the paper more study of the impact to wildlife is needed, and the concerns of local residents who could be affected by development fleshed out before more construction takes place:
“They really haven’t been outside of western Oklahoma, but some of these wind farms are moving closer to more densely populated areas,” Bingman said. “The attitudes to wind farms are different in those parts of the state.”
The bill directs the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment to work with other state agencies to study wind potential in eastern Oklahoma, along with access to transmission, how development might affect wildlife and public support of the industry.
But Arnella Karges, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber of Oklahoma, told the paper she doesn’t see the logic in the state restricting wind farms while simultaneously incentivizing them:
“It’s unfortunate that we are seeing bills this legislative session aimed at either restricting wind farm developments or halting future projects altogether,” Karges said. “Why have policies which encourage wind production in our state and then not allow that development? The State Chamber supports an ‘all of the above’ energy portfolio for Oklahoma, and wind power is part of that.