Q&A with Sandy Pratt: Oklahoma to feel growth of wind energy expansion

Published: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 7:00 am By: Jay F. Marks

The Oklahoman

Q: Wind energy seems to be a leading contender to replace fossil fuels in the future. Do you think Oklahoma businesses are equipped to support it?

A: Wind energy never will replace oil and gas in Oklahoma. However, the wind industry represents a vital component in helping the nation end its dependence on foreign and often hostile sources of energy. Based on an analysis conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oklahoma is expected to generate nearly 10 percent of the nation's wind-generated electricity by 2030. The Oklahoma Commerce Department markets Oklahoma as the place to do business for wind-power production and wind-component manufacturing. Oklahoma offers not only an abundance of wind capacity, but a well-developed supply chain and highly skilled and motivated work force. With its resilient advanced manufacturing sector, Oklahoma can expect to capture a significant share of external orders. Commerce also works with existing businesses eager to retool and refocus to supply wind-component manufacturers and blade and tower (original equipment) manufacturers.

Q: What kind of economic effect could it have for Oklahoma if some turbine manufacturers moved to the state?

A: The state's emerging wind industry has the potential to create 7,000 jobs over the next five years and up to 18,000 jobs within 10 years, with a significant portion of them occurring in Oklahoma's advanced manufacturing sector. That translates to $1.48 billion in total personal income to be created from the wind-energy industry in Oklahoma. Commerce works every day to land wind deals and market the state's assets. To attract those manufactures, we must offer incentives attractive to wind-component manufacturers. Gov. Brad Henry recently signed HB1953, which allows companies that support, repair and maintain service for wind-energy companies to participate in our state Quality Jobs Program.

Q: What kind of feedback are you expecting from the wind-energy survey the department is conducting?

A: The purpose of the Oklahoma wind supply chain survey - www.okcommerce.gov/windsurvey- is to inventory existing Oklahoma companies that supply products and services to the wind industry or that aspire to do so. With this information, Commerce can help these companies benefit from the wind industry across the state, the nation, and around the world. Commerce also can use the information to demonstrate to relocation prospects the strength of Oklahoma's wind-industry supply chain. Additionally, Commerce can use the data to connect companies looking for in the wind industry. This supports our efforts to develop the full value chain of Oklahoma's wind industry, which ensures greater prosperity across the entire state.

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