Wind power in Eastern Oklahoma: Not in my backyard? (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

Ryan Gentzler is a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma.

Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.
Wind farm near Weatherford, OK. Photo by Travel Aficionado used under a Creative Commons license.

Elected representatives of all stripes are eager to make known their support for an “all of the above” energy policy, taking advantage of nonrenewable fuels like oil and natural gas while expanding the use of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power. Oklahoma has done well at making this a reality: despite its deserved reputation as an oil state, wind power comprised nearly 15 percent of the energy generated in Oklahoma last year, a figure that is seventh best in the country.

Unfortunately, the progress that has been made on this front is being threatened by the supporters of SB 1440, which has passed the Senate and would put a moratorium on wind farm development east of Interstate 35 until 2017. The bill was written by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), presented by Sen. Rick Brinkley (R-Owasso), and will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville), a trio of Eastern Oklahomans working to keep turbines out of Eastern Oklahoma. Their central claim, based on data from 2008, is that the wind in their area isn’t sufficient to support wind power, but the nonprofit group The Wind Coalition points out that the latest maps show that this simply isn’t the case. Wind power companies are eager to put into motion their plans for wind farms in Craig County, and it’s difficult to imagine why they would want to invest in the area if it wasn’t likely to produce a profit.

But it’s highly doubtful that Sen. Bingman, Sen. Brinkley, and Rep. Sears are concerned about the production of the turbines or the good of the corporations that build and maintain them. Instead, it reflects another case of NIMBYism. Not In My Backyard, they say; wind power on the other side of the state is fine, but not here. SB 1440 seems to be the result of efforts by the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, which is mainly made up of real estate developers who are concerned about the negative effects of turbines on nearby residents, mainly attributed to the noise that they produce. But even these effects have been vastly overstated.

Perhaps they would prefer to maintain the status quo of relying on nonrenewable energy, extending the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for horizontal drilling despite mounting evidence that the disposal of wastewater from these drills contributes to earthquakes, while tying up development of clean, renewable wind energy. But this isn’t good policy in the short term or the long term.

Wind power has enjoyed rapid growth in Oklahoma, taking advantage of our geography and weather patterns to diversify our economy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. With SB 1440, the Senate gave in to their NIMBY demons. Let’s hope that the House can see that wind power deserves to keep expanding without irrational restrictions.

 The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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