wind energy

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

U.S. Sen. James Lankford is introducing a bill to remove an expired wind energy incentive from the federal tax code.

The federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy expired in December 2014, but since it’s part of the tax code, lawmakers can extend it by bundling it with legislation to extend other tax credits and incentives. That has happened as recently as July, when a Senate committee voted to extend the PTC as part of a $95 billion bundle of incentives.

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected arguments from the Osage Nation and the U.S. Department of Interior and ruled that wind energy projects in Osage County do not violate tribal mineral rights.

Aboard a ferry off the coast of Rhode Island, state and federal officials take a close look at a steel structure poking out of the ocean. It's the first foundation affixed to the seafloor for a five-turbine wind farm off the state's coast.

It's a contrast to what's happening off the coast of Massachusetts. Developer Cape Wind has spent more than 10 years and millions of dollars there on a massive wind farm that it may never build.

There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the focus of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

This week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced management plans for the greater sage grouse across federal public lands in 10 Western states. It’s part of an effort to keep the bird off the endangered species list, one that has become a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems and protecting the region’s key industries.

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Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A bill adding new regulations and oversight of Oklahoma’s booming wind industry passed a House committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 1549, one of several bills filed in the 2015 Legislature that target the wind industry, places limits on where companies can build new wind farms. The proposed measure would prevent new wind farms from being built near schools, hospitals or airports.

The bill was written by Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. He says landowners and the wind industry were consulted when crafting the legislation.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The wind energy boom has largely evaded Oklahoma’s Panhandle, but new turbine projects and a proposal for a $2 billion transmission line could transform the prairie into a national wind energy hub.

But the projects are being planned amid uncertainty at the state Capitol, where tax credits for the wind industry are in the crosshairs.


Despite being one of the state’s richest sources of wind energy, the Oklahoma Panhandle is home to very few wind farms.

Carroll Beaman knows why. The fourth-generation farmer was born during the height of the Dust Bowl and still owns the homestead his family settled shortly after the turn of the century.

“It’s very sparsely settled,” he says. “No industry, except for some of the oil and gas, so it’s never had transmission.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 full-length radio features and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.

EPA Regulations

On of the first broadcast stories we filed this year was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, and how pollution from Texas coal plants dirties the skies above the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma. Volunteer firefighter and avid hiker Bill Cunningham took us to the top of Mount Scott to show us the pollution the rules are supposed to fight.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2015 session is still months away, but the newly elected Oklahoma Legislature has already started talking about how to divvy up roughly $7 billion in state appropriations.

Some prominent lawmakers are promising to re-examine tax credits and economic incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those incentives are used for wind energy, which the industry says are working.

Big Wind

Oklahoma is in the middle of a wind boom. In the last five years, installed wind power capacity has soared more than 200 percent. Last year, Oklahoma was the country’s fourth-largest producer of wind-powered electricity, data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show. But every energy boom comes with a cost.