It often seems as if the wind never stops blowing in Oklahoma.
That could pay big dividends for the state as federal lawmakers consider a renewable electricity standard that would require utility companies to get a certain percentage of their power from renewable resources.
State wind advocates insist passage of legislation calling for increased renewable energy generation would pave the way for Oklahoma to sell its wind-power resources to utilities in other states, making wind turbines an even more common sight on the horizon.
"I've always called it the next oil well," said former state Rep. Curt Roggow, a lobbyist for the Wind
"It's the next oil well out there for rural Oklahoma."
Oklahoma currently has 1130 megawatts of wind power, with another 400 megawatts currently under construction, according to the state Commerce Department.
That accounts for 5 percent of the state's generation capacity, which ranks Oklahoma 10th in the nation in that category, said Kylah McNabb, the Commerce Department's wind development specialist.
"We're very excited to see that," she said.
McNabb said the state's largest power providers have been committed to adding more wind to their generation portfolios, even before Oklahoma lawmakers passed a renewable
She said the new legislation should boost wind development more in the future.
World gains capacity
The world's wind power capacity increased nearly 32 percent in 2009, according to the International Energy Agency annual wind report released this week.
There is a total of 111 gigawatts of wind capacity, enough to cover the electricity needs of Australia and Ireland combined.
"The contribution of electricity from wind continues to grow even in this time of economic downturn," the report states.
Relying on wind and other renewable energy sources can reduce carbon emissions, cut electricity costs and decrease reliance on imported fuels, the
The United States has the most wind capacity in the world, with 35,086 megawatts installed, according to the report.
The proposed federal renewable electricity standard could bolster that figure, although developer Jaime McAlpine said the economy may slow turbine construction a bit.
He said most experts predict wind development over the next two years will not reach the level it attained in 2009.
Oklahoma Energy Secretary Bobby Wegener said cost, scale and policy support will determine the
"You have to look at the full picture," he said.
Wegener said improved technology has made wind power a more competitive electricity option, but its intermittent nature means it can only make up a part of a utility company's
A renewable electricity standard would make it possible to export wind power to states in need of renewable energy, he said.
What about when wind is calm?
There has to be a backup plan as more wind is added to the power portfolio of Oklahoma and the nation.
Wind is an intermittent resource, so utility companies must rely on some other power source to generate electricity when the wind is not blowing.
Oklahoma Energy Secretary Bobby Wegener said wind and natural gas work well together in that regard.
Wegener said Colorado tried to use coal as a backup to its wind power, but that destroyed the efficiency of coal plants while increasing emissions.
The coal plants were not built to be turned off and on, but gas-fired plants are more flexible, he said.
Wegener said the best-case scenario is for those industries to promote each other as they try to grow.