There is little doubt that Oklahoma is a state with strong and proud ties to the U.S. military, with major installations across the state. In addition to Fort Sill, a primary training center for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and McAlester Army Munitions Plant, the state is home to Altus, Tinker, and Vance Air Force bases. Oklahoma is also one of the nation’s most productive states for wind power. There is no reason that these two significant resources for Oklahoma can’t exist side by side, enriching the state.
Earlier this legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature helped to resolve confusion about the siting of wind turbines in relation to airports. It turns out that some Oklahomans tried to avoid having wind turbines near their properties by taking advantage of a regulation that prohibits wind turbines from being located too close to an airport. By creating fake airports, so called “sham-ports”, those landowners tried to use a regulatory technicality to stop some of the state’s wind power production.
Fortunately, lawmakers wisely eliminated the “sham-port” loophole. Not only does this help ensure Oklahoma’s place as one of the nation’s leading wind states, it also benefits landowners whose properties are ideal for the siting of wind turbines. Today, more than a thousand Oklahomans own land that houses wind turbines. The leasing of turbines provides valuable income to these families, many of whom are farmers in western Oklahoma. Especially for farmers dealing with unpredictable crop and market conditions, wind leasing offers steady income and peace of mind. By taking action to close the “sham-port” loophole, state lawmakers helped preserve this stream of income and defend land values for current owners, as well as all of those who might see turbines built on their land in coming years.
Recently, though, another issue has threatened land values and the potential for wind turbine leasing. This time, the concern is the siting of wind power near military installations. Some are worried that wind turbines could interfere with military operations.
To be clear, operational integrity is something the military takes very seriously, which is why the Department of Defense already undergoes a rigorous assessment of whether the location of wind turbines could have any effect on military operations. In locations across the country, including North Carolina and Texas, extensive reviews have taken place to ensure that major wind installations don’t inhibit the operation of military bases in any way. For example, more than 600 wind turbines are today operating near Travis Air Force Base in California, with the nearest wind turbine less than 4.2 miles from radar. In North Carolina, a wind farm built by Amazon was approved by the U.S. Navy to build 104 wind turbines near a military facility, after those turbines were deemed to be no obstacle to operations.
Time after time, the military has declared in no uncertain terms that wind turbines can co-exist peacefully with military operations. They have affirmed this through careful and detailed analysis that looks at multiple contingencies and evaluates numerous concerns. This is true anywhere that wind turbines are built, including Oklahoma. Decades of experience back this up, too, as no military base has ever been shut down or been compromised by wind power production.
Members of the Oklahoma Legislature have a number of pressing issues in front of them as the legislative session comes to a close. However, the relationship between wind turbines and military installations is one that is sufficiently covered by the diligent work of the Department of Defense. As lawmakers conclude their work this year, let’s hope they show the wisdom to leave this issue to military officials. That means taking no action that could endanger the state’s wind production or hurt land values for farmers and other families who depend on wind leases.