Note: The following is a guest post by Kylah McNabb, who is in the State Energy Office at the Oklahoma Commerce Department. Among her many duties, Kylah is the resident wind expert at the department. She attended this year’s AWEA conference in Atlanta.
Oklahoma showcases at national wind conference
This week brings the time of year that those of us in the wind industry come together for our annual Windpower conference, hosted by the American Wind Energy Association. We descend upon a major city–this year Atlanta–to discuss industry news, issues and conduct various business transactions. After 10 years in this industry, our wind power show still continues to amaze me each and every year. Walking the over 20 acres of exhibition floor, a variety of languages can be heard in conversations, showcasing the truly international element of the wind industry. Companies — from wind developers to wind turbine manufacturers and environmental consultants to economic developers – all work to secure business in the wind industry. Over 10,000 attendees from all walks of the planet share one goal: grow the wind industry in the United States.
Oklahoma has a lot to showcase this year. As of the 1st quarter in 2012, we have just under 2,200 megawatts of wind power capacity installed across 19 wind farms in the state. By the end of 2012, we should cross 3,000 megawatts of capacity, essentially meeting our Renewable Energy Goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2015 three years ahead of schedule. Gov. Mary Fallin released the Oklahoma First Energy Plan, which includes wind as a member of Oklahoma’s family, and we continue to spread the message that Oklahoma is a great place to do business.
Still, you can’t help but notice an air of concern around conference attendees this year. It stems from the fact that the federal production tax credit for wind power is set to expire at the end of 2012. An industry that employs over 75,000 people directly and tens of thousands more indirectly feels the strains like so many of a cautious economy. Tuesday morning’s general session first featured executives from the industry, most with over 30 years experience and each speaking to the importance of continued technology advancements and the need for stable national energy policy. Following them, there was a great discussion led by former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode with Karl Rove and Robert Gibbs. While Rove and Gibbs are on opposite sides of the fence on most topics, ensuring America’s energy security by growing wind power across the nation is one topic that all sides can agree on.
Tuesday afternoon put Oklahoma in the spotlight as Secretary of Energy Michael Ming served on a speakers’ panel and delivered a presentation on “A Natural Partnership for Economic Development: Wind & Gas.” Oklahoma is blessed with an incredible natural gas industry that serves our state in many roles. It is our rich history and experience in energy industry that has enabled wind power to become a national leader in wind development. We look forward to the potential the future holds as we utilize our native energy sources.
Even though the Windpower 2012 show ended on Wednesday, on Thursday work continues as the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America program hosts its annual All-States Summit. It is an honor to serve as the Oklahoma representative to this event, as we take a deep-dive analysis into the wind market and what each of us can do as states and regions to continue growing our industry. Oklahoma again is seated well. We have a top-notch wind resource; good policies such as our renewable energy goal and the zero emissions tax credit; progressive work in the building of transmission lines; and a strong, supportive business environment. But we have so much more to do. Oklahoma wind power is proving its national prominence in saving consumers’ money. One wind project in Oklahoma is a national example of investment taking place within our state borders and the power being sold to another state. The project involving Alabama Power Company is expected to save its customers money on their electric bills. This is just the first step in how we can add to the $3 billion of wind investment in Oklahoma and, like our energy partners, serve others with Oklahoma-based energy.
Finally, I cannot help but mention how much support comes to our great Thunder team from this part of the nation. Whether it was walking through the Centennial Olympic Park downtown, visiting the amazing Georgia Aquarium, or the World of Coca-Cola here in Atlanta, when you mention you are from Oklahoma, the first response is how excited they are for the Oklahoma City Thunder and how much everyone wants them to win. While we proudly wear our Thunder gear and cheer on our team from afar, we love and proudly welcome all the people who join us in cheering on our team! Go Thunder!