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Feb 11, 2019

Ray: Punitive wind power bills will set Oklahoma back

Oklahoma’s production tax credit for wind power expired in 2017 and was never renewed, a sensible move that acknowledges the advancements wind power has made in becoming a competitively priced form of generation.

Wind power no longer needs a 10-year, half-cent-per-kilowatt-hour credit to compete with conventional forms of electricity. Mission accomplished!

But some Oklahoma lawmakers appear bent on inflicting punitive measures on an industry that wants to do business in our windy state.

Among other things, a handful of bills would single out wind power for a $1-per-megawatt-hour generation tax, impose unnecessary fees for the production and decommissioning of wind power, take back incentives already awarded to wind power producers, and establish setbacks for airport runways, public schools, hospitals and almost any kind of military site or activity. Another measure would shift oversight of siting, notification and “no hazard” determination plans from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

These are not good-faith efforts borne from concerns about public safety. They are instead calculated efforts to thwart the development of one of the most improved, competitive and cleanest forms of power generation.

Despite these misguided efforts, wind power projects will continue to be developed in Oklahoma. Last year, the Sooner State added 576 megawatts of new wind power capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. That number, though, could have been higher and Oklahoma could have retained its No. 2 spot in wind power capacity if state leaders had condemned this campaign against wind and created a business-friendly environment for developers wanting to capitalize on the revolution taking place in power generation.

Instead, the state dropped to No. 3 in operational capacity, as other states built wind power projects that could have been sited in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma should be known as a dynamic, forward-looking place to live and work. If state lawmakers don’t kill this legislative waste early in this year’s legislative session, the state’s efforts to recruit and retain enterprising businesses and a progressive workforce may suffer a permanent setback.

Wind power critics point to the so-called unsightly look of wind turbines, the noise they can create for nearby residents, the temporary footprint they create during construction and the birds they kill during operation. These are real impacts of wind power production and construction. But these impacts are exaggerated and are a small price to pay for the efficiencies of a modern power system that will increasingly rely on wind, solar and energy storage as resources for power generation.

I have yet to hear anyone provide a valid reason that justifies a campaign to cripple the state’s thriving wind power industry. If ending the industry’s preferential treatment were the goal, then that end has been achieved.

In addition to ending the half-cent tax credit for zero-emission generation, the state also ended a five-year exemption for local property taxes. It was time for the wind power industry to survive on its own. It is surviving and it is going to play a starring role in a revolution Oklahoma will be forced to embrace.

The well-funded opposition to Oklahoma wind power relies on ancient rhetoric and ignores the progress and realities of today’s modern power system. It ignores the steady cost reductions of wind power supplies and technology. It also ignores the need to offset lost capacity resulting from coal plant retirements, the growth of energy storage capacity and grid improvements designed to foster the development of wind and solar power.

Lawmakers should not be spending their valuable time on bills that do nothing to move the state forward and only serve to satisfy a few misguided idealogues with big bank accounts.

As always, if you have questions, criticisms, praise, ideas or suggestions, you can contact me at rray@journalrecord.com.

Russell Ray
Journal Record