Wind Coalition's Mark Yates Shoots the Breeze with Ron Hays to Talk About Industry's Many BenefitsFri, 05 Jan 2018 17:03:57 CST
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays had the chance to speak with Oklahoma’s director of the Wind Coalition, Mark Yates, recently. According to him, the wind industry has developed significantly over the last 15 years graduating he says from its infancy stage into a current state of adolescence. Yates believes that most Oklahomans don’t realize how much the industry has truly grown here in Oklahoma and across the country or about the benefits it brings to rural communities as well. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“We currently rank No. 3 in the nation in wind capacity,” Yates said. “Here in a few years, we will probably be No. 2 behind Texas. So, it’s really exciting for the state of Oklahoma that we now have a very diverse mix in our energy portfolio - wind being a part of that.”
The growth seen in the industry has itself generated a multitude of benefits for Oklahomans statewide.
“I think for rural Oklahoma especially, it’s been an infusion of cash and ad valorem tax dollars that we’ve seen go to county governments to improve roads - but also to local school districts.”
Yates reports that a total of 37 school districts have been invested in across Oklahoma so far, many of which have now fallen off the state-aid formula, which in turn has left those extra funds to be allocated to other school districts in need. The benefits of the wind industry extend to private landowners as well. Yates says the industry is making approximately a $36 million-dollar royalty payment to landowners each year presently. In addition, Yates says wind projects in the state have helped to file down Oklahoma’s unemployment, providing jobs to local men and women offering communities a sustainable job source and tax revenue stream.
As previously alluded to, Oklahoma’s wind industry is racing to become the second-place wind energy state in terms of capacity - meaning there are more projects currently well underway.
“There’s obviously a lot more projects in the pipeline being looked at and developed,” Yates said. “One that’s been in the news is the Wind Catcher Project up in the Pan-Handle which would bring an additional 800 turbines outside of Guymon.”
This project will have a massive impact on the Pan-Handle region of the state, bringing with it an estimated 120 permanent jobs and millions in tax revenue. While these points seem promising to the state’s economy, many in the industry worry that Oklahoma’s political landscape may deter future investment.
“Investors are currently looking at some of the rhetoric,” Yates remarked. “Over the past three years, the wind industry has given up on the state incentive. I think that’s very important for Oklahomans to know, that we are no longer incentivized by the state of Oklahoma to be here.”
Fifteen years ago, the state did offer two incentives for wind energy in the form of an ad valorem tax exemption and a tax credit for zero emissions. Both though have since sunset. Additionally, the state is now considering additional taxes on top of those already being paid by the wind industry. Nevertheless, though, Yates says the wind industry has rooted itself in Oklahoma.
“Absolutely, wind is here - we’re excited to be here and we want to continue to invest into rural Oklahoma for years to come,” he concluded. “But, yanking the carpet out from underneath us, has a chilling impact for future investment.”
To learn more about the Wind Coalition and its impact on rural Oklahoma, visit their website.
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