Wind power expands in Oklahoma

And because Oklahoma is in the forefront of wind power development, the state will be setting a precedent in policy making and infrastructure for the nation.

That is the summary of what Oklahoma State Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley told a number of Woodward business and community leaders who gathered Thursday for the Woodward Industrial Foundation’s annual meeting.

In the past year, "Woodward celebrated the groundbreaking of the OU Spirit Wind Farm; construction started on the Keenan II Wind Farm; and Wednesday, OG&E turned on its new 121-mile transmission line stretching between Oklahoma City and Woodward," said Shirley, who also is the executive director of he Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

These activities show the Commerce Department’s commitment to renewable energy development, she said, noting significant job growth in the green industry is expected.

For example, Shirley said an estimated 15,000 jobs over the next 10 years will be created in construction, energy production, and component manufacturing of green energy. As wind energy expands in Oklahoma, so too does interest in the state’s newest industry.

Although Oklahoma is already "known globally as an energy giant," the state’s involvement in European wind energy conferences resulted in over 50 private meetings with European businesses wanting to learn more about wind energy production, she said.

She also noted that Oklahoma "is rapidly diversifying its power portfolio." "This diversification — focused on strong support for natural gas, energy efficiency, and abundant renewable resources — positions Oklahoma to become America’s clean energy leader," Shirley said.

Oklahoma is the third largest natural gas producer in the country and boasts two of the largest independent producers of natural gas in the world, Shirley said, noting "Oklahoma is also among America’s top wind energy producers."

With state utility companies aggressively adding wind turbines generation to their portfolios and looking for opportunities to use solar and biomass, they are building transmission infrastructure, with the Oklahoma City-Woodward line the first of many key pathways to export renewable energy from Northwest Oklahoma, she said.

"There’s a lot of conversation around the greening of America’s economy, and as with our wind energy and manufacturing development, we see significant opportunity for Oklahoma," she said.

She noted that with the green economy expected to grow nationwide, intense competition exists between states for investment dollars.

"Oklahoma must build the infrastructure, implement the policy, and prepare the training workforce pipeline capacity needed now to successfully capture a significant share of this growing market," Shirley said.

After Shirley spoke, Woodward Industrial Foundation president LaVern Phillips noted other successes in Woodward, such as the construction of the new jail, a new school, and improvements at Crystal Beach. "Collaboration between the city, county and (state) keeps everything moving forward," Phillips said.

By Michelle Seeber, The Woodward News,