New Transportation Fees Could Hinder Oklahoma’s Wind Aspirations

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New Transportation Fees Could Hinder Oklahoma's Wind Aspirations Oklahoma's prime location in the middle of the country and its own wind resources make it an attractive option for supply-chain companies looking to set up shop in the region. To that end, the state is working to increase the number of wind project developments while at the same time attracting wind companies to locate to the state.Â

‘Our focus and concentration, in addition to continuing that wind farm generation growth, is to grow the supply chain to serve the industry along the central U.S. and around the U.S.,’ says Sandy Pratt, deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.Â

One of the largest wind companies located in the state is wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries, a subsidiary of Otter Tail Co. The state continues to look for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and companies that produce wind components and is paying particular attention to Europe.Â

‘Oklahoma makes sense because of our low cost of doing business, our central location, our great transportation,’ says Pratt, adding that the state's inland waterway port is an attractive feature to international companies. Â

The state is also working to match wind supply-chain companies with OEMs.Â

‘In addition to trying to attract new companies, we've really focused on helping our Oklahoma companies and suppliers to connect within the industry,’ Pratt notes.Â

She adds that the state's long history with the oil and gas and aerospace industries has created a manufacturing workforce with the ability to cross over into the wind sector.Â

However, higher transportation permitting fees related to the shipping of towers, blades and nacelles could put a damper on the state's efforts to attract wind companies. Last summer, the state passed legislation that doubles oversize/overweight trucking permit fees. The fees rose from $250 to $500 per shipment. This puts a financial burden on transportation companies, according to Dan Case, executive director of the Oklahoma Trucking Association.Â

‘I've heard from the people with specialized carriers in Washington, D.C., that they're looking for every way they can to avoid Oklahoma now,’ he says.Â
Case says the fees do not make sense for a state that is working hard to attract wind companies. DMI Industries is one such company that is affected by the higher fees.Â

‘We've become a very expensive state to move these types of loads through simply because, per mile, it's extremely expensive now,’ he says.Â

Permitting fees to ship oversize equipment from DMI's headquarters in North Dakota to Minnesota are approximately $100, Case estimates. However, the permit fees to ship the same equipment from Oklahoma to Minnesota are now over $2,500. He acknowledges that the shipment from Oklahoma is traveling a longer distance but says the fees are still burdensome.Â

‘[DMI] is a business that the Commerce Department of Oklahoma helped to attract to the state, and we get them here and treat them like that – it's definitely not what we need to be doing,’ he explains. ‘We're not showing ourselves to be business friendly.’Â

Case says his group is working on a bill to repeal this legislation with state Rep. Skye McNiel. He hopes the new legislation will be introduced as soon as the new legislative session begins in a couple of weeks.Â

‘The legislators I've talked to think it's the right thing to do because we are trying to attract more wind power businesses,’ he notes.

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