By John Sutter
If the nation enacts policies that support wind energy, Oklahoma is poised to be the No. 1 wind-power state in the country by 2030, a federal researcher said this morning at a conference in Oklahoma City.
Larry Flowers, of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, Co., said if the United States uses wind for 20 percent of its energy by 2030, Oklahoma is expected to see $44 billion in economic development and an increase of 19,000 rural jobs.
But that future is far from certain, he said.
“In the end, it’s policy and the politicians that are going to determine what does happen,” Flowers said.
The remarks came at the first Oklahoma Wind Energy Conference, which continues today and tomorrow morning at the Cox Convention Center in Bricktown.
The lack of power lines used to move wind energy from the Great Plains to power-hungry cities is a major obstacle to Oklahoma future with wind energy, Flowers said.
Oklahoma’s energy secretary, David Fleischaker, echoed that sentiment.
“The wind tends to blow in places where we don’t have the large population centers,” he said. “So we have the problem--the challenge--of building transmission lines out.”
In an interview, Fleischaker said Oklahoma has been seen as an ant-alternative energy state until recently.
It’s working to change that image with conferences like this one. In recent years, utility companies and ranchers are warming to the idea of wind power.
Nationally, the United States has lagged behind other countries in terms of wind power development. Wind accounts for only 2 percent of the nation’s energy usage. Spain, for example, creates 12 percent of its energy from wind.
Flowers acknowledged the fact that Oklahoma’s wind industry has come a long way in a short time.
In 2000, the state didn’t produce any wind power, he said. Now the state has installed wind turbines to create up to 680 megawatts of power.
Fleischaker said if Oklahoma used only 10 percent of the available wind energy, it would have twice the power it needs for itself.
“You’ve come a long way Oklahoma … but there’s a long and big and spectacular future for you if you choose to follow that path,” Flowers said.
3 months ago