Windfarm promises jobs, green energy

It’s a refrain familiar to millions around the country: “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” Rogers and Hammerstein may have written the lyrics for a musical but they have always rung plenty true, especially to those living in the panhandle. And soon, that truth will become a new source of energy and jobs for residents of Oklahoma and the surrounding states.
Over the summer, General Electric Renewable Energy and Invenergy announced that construction was underway on the Wind Catcher, a massive 2,000 megawatt wind farm in the Oklahoma panhandle, with plans to be completed by 2020. With a proposed 800 state-of-the-art turbines, the wind farm would be the largest in the United States, surpassing the Alta Wind Energy Center in California.
The facility is part of a larger $4.5 billion dollar infrastructure investment called the Wind Catcher Energy Connection, which will also provide a 350-mile, extra-high-voltage power line to be built by American Electric Power (AEP). This power line will connect a substation at the wind farm with one near Tulsa and help deliver clean energy from the isolated panhandle to more than a million customers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and northern Texas.
Estimates from GE and AEP indicate that the project will save customers $7 billion dollars over 25 years and create approximately 4,400 jobs during construction, as well as another 80 permanent positions to monitor the station upon completion. An additional 4,000 indirect jobs are also expected to be supported by the construction of the wind farm and it is believed that more than $500 million in local revenue could be generated from property taxes and lease payments.
Contrary to its prevailing reputation as a state unconcerned with environmental issues, Oklahoma has been a leading actor in the nation-wide effort towards achieving a greater reliance on renewable energy sources like wind and solar. According to the American Wind Energy Association, at the end of 2016, the state had a current capacity to produce 6,645 megawatts of solar energy per year, the third highest total in the United States. Following construction of the Wind Catcher, Oklahoma will trail only Texas, which produced more than 20,000 megawatts in 2016.
Despite recent efforts like the Wind Catcher and the potentially even larger Titan Wind Project in South Dakota (currently in pre-construction by developers Clipper Windfarm and BP), the U.S. remains far behind the world leaders in wind power. Per the latest data from the Global Wind Energy Council, both China and the European Union currently produce around double the output of the United States.

Post Author: Justin Guglielmetti