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Wind Overview

Our state's two largest utility providers are closing in on generating ten percent of our electricity using wind power and Oklahoma has the potential to do a lot more.
Wind Overview

Wind turbines

Show Dates

Show 0924: Wind Overview

Air date: June 14, 2009



Rob:  It doesn’t take a Broadway Musical to know that the wind comes sweeping down the Oklahoma plains.  Our state’s two largest utility providers are closing in on generating ten percent of our electricity using wind power, and Oklahoma has the potential to do a lot more, which is the theme of a conference scheduled for later this month; but before we tell you about that, our Russ Jowell has some background.

Russ:  It’s well known that we like growing things in Oklahoma.  Everything from bright green canola to sugary canes of sweet sorghum can be seen rising from our state’s soil, and among these are what may very well be the tallest crop in the state, wind turbines.

Natalie Shirley:  This is huge for Oklahoma.

Russ:  Oklahoma’s first wind farm was built near Woodward in 2003.  Since then our state has become home to over 470 turbines spread across nine different farms, energizing not only the state’s power grid, but the economy as well.

Natalie Shirley:  By 2030 we expect that we’re going to be the second largest producer of electricity for the nation.

Russ:  Oklahoma secretary of commerce, Natalie Shirley, says the impact the state’s wind industry could have both here at home and throughout the nation is monumental.

Natalie Shirley:  What commerce is looking at is preparing the state for many activities, for manufacturing, for repair and maintenance, for research and development, for education; the whole aspect of wind that will give us a large presence in this industry.

Russ:  And many across the state have already begun to reap the benefits of Oklahoma’s growing wind industry.  Leslie Crall is a farmer just outside of Weatherford, and says he reaps many benefits from the two turbines recently installed on his property.

Leslie Crall:  We have an annual lease payment that, they rent and they pay us a fee every year for the rights to have the wind towers on our farm.  It really hasn’t changed our farming any at all, because the blades are so high up.  This farm, here that we’re currently on, we either run cattle or make hay out of it.  It hasn’t affected us one bit at all.

Russ:  And though they may have little impact on Crall’s farming, he still can’t be helped but to be awestruck by these towering structures.

Leslie Crall:  I’ve never been on top of one, and I don’t know as I would even do it if I had the opportunity, but I know there’s a lot of people that work every day climbing up and down these towers.

You can have some kind of idea how many turbines we’re going to have in the United States.

Russ:  And many of those people can be found right here in Oklahoma.  Greg Adams is an instructor for the Wind Technician Training Program at High Plains Technology Center in Woodward, where he’s busy bringing up a new generation of workers to support the wind revolution.

Greg Adams:  If the industry progresses like it’s anywhere near forecasted, we need trained personnel to operate these wind farms, climb the towers, check the oil, check the computers, make sure everything is operating right.  These are very, very, expensive machines; maintenance is a very, very important aspect of it.

Russ:  And Adams says the demand for workers will only go up as Oklahoma’s wind capacity increases.

Greg Adams:  Our need for personnel is only directly proportional to the amount of wind turbines that we actually have built.

Russ:  And if past growth is any indication, success will no doubt be blowing down Oklahoma’s plains.

Natalie Shirley:  Within 10 years it will mean 18,000 jobs.  In 5 years, it’s going to be 7,000 jobs.  This could mean 500 million dollars worth of taxes to the state alone, and about 2.5 billion dollars in total economic impact for the state.  So it really is quite large.

Russ:  Showing that the gusty winds of Oklahoma may just be the sound of money.