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Enid area
Wind turbines spin just east of Hinton, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (Michael Beavor)

Oklahomans in the Enid area continue to hold favorable views of wind energy and its economic opportunities, according to a new poll commissioned by the Oklahoma Rural Association.

The survey, conducted Aug. 13-15 by Washington-based WPAi, polled 300 registered voters across Garfield, Major and Alfalfa counties in northwest Oklahoma. More than 83 percent of those interviewed for the poll (embedded below) reside within the city limits of Enid.

The Oklahoma Rural Association “ensures rural Oklahoma receives the representation we deserve at both our state and nation’s capitols, with state and federal legislative agendas set by the members we represent,” according to its website, which does not list member organizations, entities or companies.

In July, NetExtra Energy and the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative signed a power purchase agreement to develop a massive wind and solar energy storage project that would be the largest in the United States when finished in 2023.

When completed, the project would provide energy for Oklahoma and 13 other states.

Those involved like wind energy companies

Poll respondents were asked how favorably they view Oklahoma’s wind industry, with 54 percent saying they have a favorable impression of the companies who own and operate wind farms. But when it comes to farmers who supplement their income by leasing land to wind companies, 70 percent of those polled had a favorable impression.

Oklahoma Rural Association CEO Monica Collison said the results show that those who live in the counties surveyed understand the opportunities wind energy provides.

“The reason wind is popular in rural areas is that it brings economic development to areas that need it, tax income that goes into schools and community service, and provides a steady income for farmers who lease their land,” Collison said.

Rural Oklahomans want money to stay local

The poll also took the Enid area’s temperature on state issues as a whole, asking respondents to list up to three of their top priorities without prompt. The most common response was education (44 percent), followed by health care and the price of prescription drugs (29 percent), unemployment and the economy (22 percent) and transportation infrastructure (19 percent).

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It also asked respondents to hypothesize the existence of a new “wind production tax,” which the wind industry has opposed. Respondents were asked whether they would prefer that any new revenue from such a tax benefit “schools and local priorities” or that it be sent to “Oklahoma City” for state lawmakers to allocate. More than 80 percent of respondents chose the local option.

“We are constantly talking with groups, taking surveys formal and informal and working on rural economic development opportunities,” Collison said. “It is not surprise, in all of our work that local tax monies stay local. It helps local schools, hospitals, government services and drives local business and commerce. I think that is a lesson to all in rural economic development – it needs to be a win-win for the local community and the developer in terms of monies staying local.”

Wind energy is prolific in Oklahoma. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the state ranks third in installed capacity with nearly 4,000 turbines dotting the state’s landscape.

Renewables popular nationally

While the Oklahoma Rural Association’s poll shows that wind energy is popular in the communities that benefit from it economically, it also remains popular nationally. A 2018 Gallup Poll found 63 percent of Americans want more wind energy development.

Collison said wind and other renewable sources of energy provide opportunity for Oklahoma in the long term.

“We are a top oil and gas producer, a top wind producer and we have the ability to be on the forefront of solar and battery as well — we should leap at the opportunity and provide abilities now and for generations to come to reap the benefits,” she said.

Read the full Oklahoma Rural Association poll