State Lawmakers Will Take Another Shot at Regulating Wind Energy Impacts on Military

Oct 10, 2017

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Oklahoma lawmakers will take another run at protecting military training routes from wind farm encroachment.

They held an interim study Tuesday to get input on the matter.

Tinker Air Force Base Lt. Gen. Lee Levy said besides being used to make sure workhorse planes are flight-ready, the routes are also used for parachute jump training and helicopter training. Levy said wind farm towers and turbines get in the way of all those exercises, and they can obscure general aviation aircraft that drift into training routes.

"All of these things combined have a very corrosive, near-term effect on our readiness," Levy said. "In an Air Force that's the smallest and busiest it's been, that simply has a huge number of things tasked to it and asked of it, that's a concern for me as an airman."

Heath Herje with Tradewind Energy said lawmakers need to keep in mind technology is shrinking wind farms’ footprint and the slower the winds are, the taller towers need to be.

"Fortunately, in Oklahoma, western Oklahoma, we're blessed with exceptionally good wind speeds, so you'll probably see higher hub heights in the eastern part of the United States, not in western Oklahoma," Herje said.

A proposal during the regular legislative session requiring wind farms get Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission approval ended up stuck in the doldrums. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau wants future discussions to include private property rights. Bureau President Tom Buchanan said lawmakers need to think of property rights as a bundle of sticks: Each potential use for someone’s land, whether farming or selling to a renewable energy firm, is an individual stick.

"So, if we're going to take a bundle of my sticks for the betterment of the public, when you take that stick away from me, it's compensatable," Buchanan said.

Tuesday's interim study included testimony from economic experts, who said military bases are often the lifeblood of rural areas' economies.