Report on the Windpower 2017 Conference & Expo
AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, DC) maintained an upbeat, wind-at-its-back attitude for its Windpower 2017 conference and exhibition in Anaheim, Calif., May 22-25, in spite of environmentally unfriendly dust devils spinning around the current federal administration. Even with a rollback of the Clean Power plan, and the phaseout of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in 2020, AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan expects the industry can avoid significant losses and become self-sustaining.
Some 7000 attendees and 432 exhibitors from the US, Denmark, Germany, Canada, South America and other lands seemed to agree. In 2016, US wind industry employment totaled 102,500 including 25,000 jobs in more than 500 wind-related active manufacturing facilities. Advancing technology is turning out lighter, longer blades and upgraded power systems, resulting in fewer turbines for the same power output, and planning capacity is improving reliability for future US energy needs.
At a standing-room-only opening session, Kiernan, incoming AWEA Chair Tristan Grimbert (President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy, San Diego, CA), California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León and other speakers and panelists expressed confidence that wind power is actually a good business decision today. Sen. de León has introduced a bill that would increase wind, solar and natural gas renewable energy systems (RES) in California to 50 percent in 2030 and 100 percent by 2045—which de León expressed confidence will pass. Already, he says, “ten times as many people are employed by clean energy in California alone as coal mining jobs in the entire nation.” He adds that lower utility bills from renewable energy equal a tax cut for consumers.
Mergers and acquisitions, such as Siemens/Gamesa and the recent GE Renewable Energy/LM Wind Power are right on track for a growing industry. GE’s Public Affairs Director Tim Brown says its acquisition of LM gives GE better control over costs, technology advances, a reliable source of blades and other advantages of vertical integration.
Wind on sale
With more than 84 gigawatts (1 GW=1 billion watts) now available in the US, wind power is no longer considered an alternative energy source, but mainstream, a status backed by Ben Fowke, president, CEO and chairman of the board of Xcel Energy, a utility holding company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serving more than 3.3 million electric customers from Minnesota to Texas. Texas is the top user among the 41 states relying on wind energy. Fowkes says he has “wind on sale.” Xcel has been adding wind steadily in the past few years, and considers wind as a fuel that is becoming more and more dependable. For his customers, “It’s about money,” he says. “Wind is a fuel that is saving them money. Wind is one of the most efficient fuels possible. It can reduce carbon without sacrificing economics.”
Berkshire Hathaway Energy (Des Moines, IA) and Southern California Edison (SCE, Rosemead, Calif.) are also primary utility customers for wind and other RES. In addition to utility companies, a number of major corporations in the US have committed to RES, notably Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Target and Walmart.
Advancing blade technology to meet self-sustaining goals for wind power