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March 27, 2014

Study unveils wind industry contributed more than $1B to state

OKLAHOMA CITY — The wind industry has contributed more than $1 billion in Oklahoma in just under a decade, according to a study unveiled by wind energy proponents Wednesday. Much of that benefits rural Oklahomans, the study found.

The Wind Coalition, a nonprofit group that encourages developing wind resources in the south and central United States, commissioned the study and unveiled it under the looming threat of a House vote to ban wind farm development east of Interstate 35 for three years.

The study found the state’s 26 operational wind farms — developed between 2003 and 2012 — added more than 1,600 full-time jobs to Oklahoma’s economy. They pay more than $22 million per year in royalties to landowners.

As property tax abatements expire, an estimated $43 million in taxes will be funneled annually to cities and school districts due to improvements made by wind developments, the study found.

The study did not consider wind farms constructed since 2012.

“It’s amazing what it’s done for rural Oklahoma,” said state Rep. Don Armes, R-Lawton. “The cows do better in the shadow of these wind towers.”

Armes, who touted the benefits of wind power and its economic impact, said Wednesday that he does not expect a Senate bill that would freeze wind farm development east of I-35 for three years to pass the House. Supporters of Senate Bill 1440, proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, have expressed concern that the industry is relatively unregulated.

In a statement, Bingman said his bill is a work in progress and discussions continue.

“We appreciate the investment the wind industry has made in Oklahoma and the economic impact,” he said.

The Wind Coalition study did not examine impacts on property values or the noise and shadows created by the wind farms. Opponents of wind development allege that it devalues property and causes nuisances.

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