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Dec 12, 2019

Q&A with Larry Martin: Oklahoma is a wind energy leader

The Oklahoman | Paula Burkes
Published: December 12, 2019

Oklahoma is a leader in wind energy, ranking third nationally in installed capacity. The state employs roughly 6,000 workers contributing to enough installed wind capacity to power 2.6 million Oklahoma homes with clean electricity each year. What goes into wind farm operations?

Wind farms typically employ operations managers, administrators and technicians to effectively operate a project. EDP Renewables’ Redbed Plains Wind Farm in Tuttle employs nine full-time employees, and many local businesses help support the wind farm’s operations, from road maintenance to cleaning services. At Redbed Plains, there are 48 wind turbines monitored and maintained daily to ensure clean, renewable energy. While the wind may not always blow, modern turbines can produce electricity more than 90% of the time.

What contributions do wind farms make to the communities they serve?

Relationships with landowners and the local community are of utmost importance because, without their support, wind farms would not exist. Aside from protecting public health by preventing pollution, wind farms provide economic benefits, such as local landowner and government payments, jobs during construction and operations, and an increase in money spent in the vicinity of the project. Through its first year of operations, Redbed Plains paid nearly $1 million to local governments and $2 million to farmers and ranchers. Since wind farms take less than 2% of land out of production, landowners can continue farming. We want to be good neighbors and contribute to the communities where we work and live. From hosting wind farm tours to visiting classrooms and teaching students about the science and engineering behind wind power, the wind industry is constantly evolving and kids get excited to hear about careers available in their backyard. EDPR also works with KidWind, which teaches STEM skills through hands-on activities. We have sponsored local teams from Tuttle to attend the National KidWind Challenge, where students from across the country design, construct and test small-scale wind turbines.

What steps need to be taken to further wind development and operations in Oklahoma?

The first step is wind energy education. Renewable energy enjoys broad public support for its clean attributes and the economic development it provides. People should turn to trusted resources when they have questions or concerns about renewable energy. Not only is renewable energy a clean source of power, it is often cheaper than conventional energy. Improved transmission access to accommodate the wind energy produced is also key. New transmission lines and a modernized grid create reliability and efficiency. Oklahoma utilities are prioritizing grid hardening and modernization, and have noted their investments will save millions of gallons of fuel and avoid tens of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

What do you see for the future of wind energy?

We will continue to see growth in wind energy in Oklahoma, as well as in solar energy and battery storage technology. This will modernize our electricity mix and keep Oklahoma a leader in energy technology and jobs.

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