Small Business Letter From America – the wind is picking up

After years of relatively slow development, wind power seems to be really picking up in the US.
In western Oklahoma, we’ve built up from one tentative test project to an all out …

14th August 2008 at 9:07 am

uspostageAfter years of relatively slow development, wind power seems to be really picking up in the US.

In western Oklahoma, we’ve built up from one tentative test project to an all out boom in development. A recent public meeting in Enid, Oklahoma, drew more people than they had room for. Hundreds of landowners turned out to listen.

Drive up the Interstate highways of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Iowa or many other Heartland states, and you’ll see the huge turbine blades being trucked to construction sites all over. Small manufacturers all across the mid-west are benefiting from this new industry. The cost to produce and install the turbines is approximately $2 million per megawatt of production capacity. And turbines are on back order.

What’s driving this activity? First, the high price of oil has also brought up natural gas prices, and natural gas is one of the top fuels used to generate electricity. That makes it easier for wind power to compete on price. Second, a production tax credit offered by the federal government has made it more attractive. That tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Has it served its purpose? Yes.

Photo by Becky McCray - use with permission

Photo by Becky McCray - used with permission

Should it be renewed? That’s up for discussion.

Wind energy leases offer a way to produce extra income from farm and ranch land. Only about 5% of the surface is removed from agriculture, so most of the ground can still be productive. That’s an important side benefit of wind development.

The demand for electricity in the US isn’t going to decline. But there is another hurdle to overcome: our incredibly limiting power grid. Different regions of the USA use slightly different power transmission, and inter-connectivity is a problem. Also, much of the big power infrastructure is either insufficient or outdated. Considering that no matter how we produce our power, we have to transmit it, the US electrical grid is one of our biggest infrastructure needs.

Other innovative alternatives are being implemented all over. But wind power is benefiting from being ready to go at the right time. And from my windy corner of Oklahoma, that’s OK by me.

Becky McCray

Becky is a small town entrepreneur in America. She writes about small business and rural issues, based on her own success and failures, at her blog Small Biz Survival. She is the co-owner of a small town retail liquor store and cattle ranch. She also helps tourism related businesses from Oklahoma to Africa to maintain their web presence and rural nonprofits and governments with grant writing and project administration.

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