Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has unveiled a comprehensive energy plan for the state that relies on a diverse mix of resources and contains several goals related to wind energy development.
The plan aims to combat two of the state's barriers to wind power development by connecting Oklahoma's wind resources with load centers and export markets, as well as by building more transmission throughout Oklahoma and Southwest Power Pool region to connect more wind energy to the grid.
The plan also seeks to avoid regulatory siting approval that could become a barrier to wind energy development. However, it lacks any specific detail on how to accomplish that goal.
The framework sets out to increase job opportunities in wind industry manufacturing, including for wind towers, blades, components and maintenance. In addition to some smaller manufacturers, Oklahoma is already home to some major wind energy manufacturing companies, including wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries and small-wind-turbine manufacturer Bergey. In addition, Eagle Claw Fabrication has announced it is opening a new wind tower manufacturing facility in the town of Muskogee.
The energy plan's focus on wind energy, however, should not be overstated. The cornerstone of the governor's Oklahoma First Energy Plan is natural gas, which, together with oil, employs 300,000 people in the state – almost 10% of Oklahoma's population – compared to just 3,000 people employed by the wind industry.
Under the plan, wind would serve almost as a complementary resource to natural gas. The governor is urging cooperation between the two industries and their technologies, including through the development of combined-cycle plants.
Oklahoma has a renewable energy goal – not a mandatory renewable portfolio standard – of 15% by 2015, which the governor says she would like to continue to pursue and even exceed. The state currently ranks eighth in the nation in installed wind energy capacity, with 1.482 GW on the ground, and has another 14.677 GW in the queue, according to statistics from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Even with this success, however, Oklahoma's wind resource, which AWEA estimates at 516.822 GW, remains virtually untapped. According to a resource assessment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oklahoma's wind resource could provide nearly 31 times the state's current electricity needs.
However, the governor warned that the cost-competitiveness of wind – and, therefore, its proliferation – is reliant upon the availability of tax incentives – both at the state and federal level.
"Washington should take note: Oklahoma is seeing economic stimulus, job growth and increased revenues – not through tax increases or big government – but because of a healthy private sector and thriving energy industries," she said in a statement announcing the energy plan. "To make sure Oklahoma remains a leader in energy production, however, our leaders must continue to support energy policies that encourage production, investment and ingenuity."