Winds of change

Tuesday, October 28th 2008, 12:00 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

WOODWARD, Okla. -- The key to ending America's dependence on foreign oil could be in the wind.

As energy companies and politicians place an increased emphasis on sustainable energy, wind power is becoming more popular. Utility companies and individuals families are installing turbines to harvest the one of Oklahoma's most abundant resources. Link to National Geographic Wind Interactive

"I've seen the wind studies for the world," oilman Boone Pickens said. "We actually have the best wind in the United States of anyplace in the world."

Pickens is urging lawmakers to adopt his plan for ridding the country of its dependence on foreign oil. Natural gas and wind power are at the center of his "Pickens' Plan." Click here to read more about the plan.

Oklahoma already is one of the top wind energy producers in the nation, with nearly 700 megawatts of operational wind generation.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce predicts wind energy production in the state is going to amp up in the couple of decades to 38,000 megawatts. That would provide 9 percent of the nation's electricity needs and could be a major boon to rural communities.

"It pumps additional income into the rancher, the farmer, the landowner," said Lavern Phillips with the Woodward Industrial Foundation. "It helps public education. It helps country government with ad valorem, there are so many benefits."

The wind energy movement has critics as well. Sue Selman operates a 14,000 acre ranch north of Woodward. She says the biggest negative is that the industry is practically unregulated. She is concerned about the impact of turbines on wildlife and worried that today's turbines will be abandoned as newer turbine technology emerges.

"They really don't have to answer to anyone, and we know how highly regulated the oil and gas industry is," she said. "We need legislation."