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Oklahoma Wind Energy: Keeping it Green
Oklahoma is blessed with many things, not the least of which is our powerful wind resource--the subject of the opening line in our state song! In fact, Oklahoma's wind resource is so significant that a recently released study from the U.S. Department of Energy projects Oklahoma to become one of the top two states in wind energy production within the next couple of decades.
While Oklahoma′s potential to multiply more than twenty-fold its generation of clean, inexhaustible wind energy is great news for both our economy and our environment, it can only remain “green” if developed in harmony with Oklahoma′s most sensitive wildlife species. Of chief concern is Oklahoma’s seriously imperiled Lesser Prairie Chicken population, which once boomed across the western third of our state but has since been relegated to a few scattered pockets of rangeland in seven counties.
Our particular challenge in the context of a burgeoning wind industry in Oklahoma is the fact that these few remaining populations of Lesser Prairie Chicken exist in many of the very same locations as our prime wind resource. Probably the greatest challenge in avoiding competition between these overlapping interests lies in the fact that Lesser Prairie Chickens have such a strong, innate aversion to anything tall on the horizon. This means that the placement of wind turbines over 300-feet in height, not to mention the location of hundreds of miles of transmission lines, can have a serious impact on the survival of this majestic game bird in Oklahoma. Developers building transmission lines or installing wind turbines should avoid locations where the Lesser Prairie Chicken exists.
As Oklahomans, it is our duty to save one of our iconic prairie bird species from the brink of extinction. And as providers of a green, environmentally friendly choice of energy, I am sure the wind industry will join us in rising to this challenge by helping us to save, rather than displace, Oklahoma’s Lesser Prairie Chickens.