Rising subsidies, along with noise complaints and loss of scenic views, have provoked many in Oklahoma to speak out against the wind power industry.
The wind industry has grown rapidly to more than 1,700 turbines from 113 a decade ago.
As the industry has grown, so has its political power. There are about a dozen registered lobbyists in the state that lobby on behalf of the wind industry to protect industry subsidies that are estimated to exceed $40 million in 2014.
Even some Oklahoma Republicans, who are generally against regulations, are speaking out.
“I personally believe that wind power has a place in Oklahoma, but I’m frustrated,” said state Rep. Earl Sears. “I think they should have more regulations.”
An attempt to ban new wind farms in the eastern half of the state was killed in the House, and an attempt by Sears to add some regulations for the industry was also killed. Others in the state say the growing subsidies will hurt state funding for schools, highways and prisons.
Tax credits are awarded to wind developers based on per-kilowatt production and can be applied to any corporate income tax liability, which can then be sold back to the state for 85 cents on the dollar. The Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates that the cash subsidies will total $80 million in the next four years.
The turbines are allowed a five-year exemption from local property taxes. In neighboring Kansas, wind producers receive a lifetime property tax exemption.
Supporters argue that financial incentives keep the wind industry in the state. Oklahoma is one of at least six states competing for more wind development