In 2014 the US wind industry added 23,000 jobs and invested $23 billion in 100 projects, prompting the new Chair of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) board to state that the industry must now begin to flex its muscles. Although the cost of wind power in the US has declined 58 percent in just five years, meeting the Department of Energy’s (DOE) vision will require a long-term stable policy environment that allows for a continued downward trajectory with regard to costs.
“From the smallest companies to the largest, we have a shared responsibility to make this vision a reality” said Mike Garland, President and CEO of Pattern Energy. “Everyone in this industry needs to demand a five- year PTC [Production Tax Credit]. What we do now will determine our success for years to come. Let’s do our part and remind everyone that wind energy helps everyone, that wind is American’s clean, domestic and cheap fuel.”
Garland noted that the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who is also a potential presidential candidate, has come out in favour of a multi-year extension of the PTC and said that “it’s the industry’s job to make sure other candidates do the same.”
Mr Garland was speaking on the third morning of WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition, the flagship event for the AWEA. During his speech, as part of the events Wind Industry Leaders Panel, Mr Garland called on companies large and small to help the industry stay on track to meet scenarios laid out in the DOE’s Wind Vision report released earlier this year. These scenarios begin with the doubling of American wind power from where it is today to providing 10 percent of the US electricity mix by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and becoming one of the leading sources of electricity in the country by 2050.
Six other leading wind industry executives expanded on Mr Garland’s comments. These included Chris Brown, the president of Swedish wind power company Vestas who said that it’s about one thing – the least cost of energy. Mr Brown added that wind is already economic against a lot of forms of energy in most parts of the US and if the industry continues to drive this forward, it becomes an important economic story.
Tim Maag, Vice President and General Manager, US and Canada, Mortenson Wind Energy Group, said that the industry needs to embrace lean innovation and that it’s only just starting the process of figuring out how to become more efficient and how to identify and drive out waste.
James Murphy, Executive Vice President, CFO and COO of Invenergy LLC, joined in by stating that the industry should be talking about adding 10 GW per year, representing around $15 billion of investment, broadening the capital base.
The panel discussion on Wednesday morning, Wind Vision: An opportunity to rally the public around a future of abundant clean energy, featured conversations about the creation of 380,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in tax payments to host communities in meeting the 20 percent by 2030 scenario. John Kostyack, Executive Director of the Wind Energy Foundation and one of the panelists discussing the Wind Vision report, stated that the report shows the tremendous growth potential within the industry and the economic and environmental benefits of continuing to grow wind power in the country.
Jonah Berger, bestselling author of Contagious: How Things Catch On, provided insight on how the industry can achieve this aim while Comanche, Texas rancher John Dudley and his wife Ginger explained to attendees how wind has benefited their small, rural Texas community. Mr Dudley and his family are currently engaged in having turbines installed on a ranch in their family to provide wind power for a period of over 100 years.
Around 400 exhibitors were present at the event and thousands of visitors attended workshops and developed new business opportunities while discussing the visit of Secretary of Energy Moniz to the event just the day before. AWEA partnered this year’s event with Clean the World, an Orlando-based organisation that distributes basic hygiene products otherwise discarded by the hospitality industry.
The conference & exhibition concludes today (Thursday) with final panels and educational sessions, as well as the Closing General Session: Large Turbine Manufacturer Forum. This will be moderated by Edward W. Zaelke, Chair Global Projects and Finance Practice, Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Six top executives from leading large turbine manufacturers will also share insights into their own companies’ successes, domestic and global markets, a trend toward consolidation in the wind energy supply chain, and the future of the industry.