Arkansas Preparing for Wind Power

April 19, 2010

Renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov once said, “No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

In Arkansas, state energy leaders are taking that advice and gathering the best possible data by which future developers can make decisions about the potential of wind energy in the state. While there are zero megawatts of wind power currently installed in Arkansas, gathering such data is crucial in showcasing the state’s abilities to harvest wind.

“Because no publicly available wind data are available at commercial hub heights in Arkansas … you can’t really have an informed debate regarding the viability of commercial-scale wind development,” Jenny Ahlen, Renewable Energy Programs coordinator for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, says. “Our hope is to not only collect this data, but to identify some areas in Arkansas where commercial-scale wind development makes sense from both an environmental and economic standpoint and then do what is necessary to encourage its development.”

Officials with the Wind Working Group at Arkansas’ State Energy Office utilized the Technical Assistance Project, a U.S. Department of Energy seminar that explores state policies and analytical tools to help those officials advance renewable energy programs in their  state. This particular seminar helped identify favorable areas for  installing tall towers that will collect wind data at commercial-scale heights. The project identified 82 contiguous suitable locations in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains and in the Mississippi River Valley where testing could begin.

The Recovery Act has now provided the state with $500,000 to move forward with its Tall Tower Wind Measurement Study, and Jenny Ahlen, renewable energy programs coordinator for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, says her office is finalizing requests for proposals that will be released in the coming weeks.

Jenny says working on renewable energy projects in her home state is a great opportunity.

“It’s a really exciting time to work in this field,” she says. “Wind turbines and other renewable energy technologies still have a relatively low penetration rate in Arkansas, which means there’s only room for improvement and growth. Gov. Mike Beebe strongly supports renewable energy, and he’s helped usher in a number of wind manufacturing companies.”

The DOE estimates Arkansas could see 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity by 2030 and 268 new long-term jobs, $2.7 million per year in payments to landowners and $9.3 million per year in local property tax revenue, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s “20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030” report.