According to an excellent article by Sean Murphy of the Associated Press in Oklahoma, wind farms are becoming politically controversial in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. In the past decade, wind energy in Oklahoma has increased from 113 windmills in three projects to 1,700 windmills in 30 projects.
Murphy writes: “A decade ago, states offered wind-energy developers an open-armed embrace, envisioning a bright future for an industry that would offer cheap electricity, new jobs and steady income for large landowners, especially in rural areas with few other economic prospects. To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks.”
However: “But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms…. Opposition is also mounting about the loss of scenic views, the noise from spinning blades, the flashing lights that dot the horizon at night and a lack of public notice about where the turbines will be erected.”
While “the growing cost of the subsidies could decimate state funding for schools, highways and prisons,” the political establishment in Oklahoma is just starting to wake up to the problems that result from creating a new special interest funded by government largesse. “With the rapid expansion came political clout. The industry now has nearly a dozen registered lobbyists working to stop new regulations and preserve generous subsidies that are expected to top $40 million this year.”
When Sam Brownback, now governor of Kansas, served in the U. S. Senate, he was the chief Republican sponsor of legislation to create a federal renewable energy mandate and strongly supported the federal wind production tax credit. He is now in a tough re-election race and recently softened his enthusiasm for Big Wind in order to try to win back part of his disgruntled Republican base. Republicans in the state legislature tried to repeal Kansas’s renewable energy mandate earlier this year, but the bill was narrowly defeated by strong opposition from Brownback and the wind industry.
Governor Brownback now says that while he supports the wind industry in Kansas, he thinks it has matured sufficiently so that the state’s 20% by 2020 renewable mandate can be repealed or modified. But Kansas not only has a renewable mandate. It also provides permanent property tax exemptions for windmills.
Oklahoma does not have a renewable energy mandate, but offers generous tax credits and a five-year exemption from local property taxes. Both Oklahoma and Kansas compensate local counties and school districts for their lost property tax revenue.
Last week’s Cooler Heads Digest included a link to an op-ed by Susan Combs, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, titled, “Time for Wind To Stand on Its Own.” It was based on a report she released, Texas Power Challenge, which concludes that Texas’s renewable energy mandate is undermining the reliability of the state’s electricity supply during periods of peak demand in the summer months. Marlo Lewis, my CEI colleague, wrote a post on GlobalWarming.org in 2012 that discovers similar problems with wind in Oklahoma.