TU Law Students Create Model Wind Energy Code

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Assistant Professor Hannah Wiseman

Seventeen students at The University of Tulsa College of Law have completed a 277-page report entitled "A Model Wind Energy Code for the State of Oklahoma," which they will send to the Oklahoma Legislature and state and national energy policy groups for possible action. Students prepared this report as part of TU Law’s Law of Electricity seminar, taught by Assistant Professor Hannah Wiseman.

Students explored legal issues at all stages of the power plant development process, with a focus on wind farms. Wiseman assigned each student to one legal- or policy-based aspect of the wind development process. Each student researched his or her policy issue in-depth, explored existing federal and state approaches to the issue, proposed a model code by which Oklahoma would best address the issue, and suggested how this code would apply "on the ground" in Oklahoma and other states. The students researched and wrote their reports in small sections throughout the semester and improved their policy recommendations based on information from independent research, a guest lecture about power plant development by John Williams of Conner & Winters, and conference calls with state Representative Dan Sullivan and state Senator Tom Adelson.

"The model code that emerged from this process provides creative, informed suggestions for supporting wind development in Oklahoma and other states while ensuring that this development is economically, environmentally, and aesthetically sound," Wiseman said. "I am extremely proud of my students and hopeful that policy makers will use the model code as a guide."

After noting the existing goals of the Oklahoma Legislature and Department of Commerce to enhance wind development within the state, the code proposes that Oklahoma work with neighboring states to develop a regional transmission plan, extend the presumption that transmission upgrades for wind are "used and useful" in the ratemaking context, support large-scale electricity storage research, require counties to develop land use regulations among which wind developers may "shop," and conduct public surveys regarding potential benefits of natural gas-wind cooperation. The code also proposes enhanced wildlife protections; acoustic and aesthetic analysis of wind developments; and a liaison in the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to assist wind developers in the environmental permitting process.

Finally, to improve financing of wind farms without stressing the state budget, the code proposes to allow net metering for community wind projects larger than the current metering threshold--thus allowing utilities to buy back excess wind energy from these projects; grant all consumers the option of purchasing wind electricity; impose a small tariff on electricity consumers to finance tribal wind development (a tariff that will pay for itself through energy efficiency improvements); and enable wind developers to create renewable energy credits, which they could then trade to states with renewable energy mandates.

(The views and recommendations in the report are solely those of the TU Law students, not The University of Tulsa or The University of Tulsa College of Law.)

Scott Been