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Windpower 2011 Highlights Industry Trends, Job Creation

As thousands of wind industry members converged on the city of Anaheim, Calif., for the world's largest annual wind energy event, the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition immediately turned into a hub for the discussion of industry trends and new developments.

The show kicked off with speeches from CNN Founder Ted Turner and other industry visionaries. [Editor's note: A blog post from the keynote coming tonight.]

In addition, the following are some of the industry’s hot topics bubbling up in Anaheim — from session presentations to chatter on the tradeshow floor.

Jobs and Economic Development

Wind power’s vast supply chain, which produces the 8,000 components making up a typical wind turbine, continues to grow deeper roots here in the U.S. Today the industry employs 75,000 people, and over 400 wind-related manufacturing plants dot the map in 43 states, from California where the industry began 30 years ago, through the Midwest which now leads wind development, to the Southeast even though its first wind farm is still on the drawing board.

In 2010 the industry reached 50 percent domestic content for U.S.-deployed turbines, and that percentage will continue to rise with stable policy signals. Fourteen more manufacturing facilities came online in 2010 to serve the industry. In addition, wind farms provide lease payments to landowners – $3,000 a year per turbine is typical – providing America’s farmers and ranchers with a stable new cash crop, as well as adding tax revenue to local communities, allowing them to build hospitals, schools, town halls, and libraries.

California's RPS

California is a particularly appropriate setting for WINDPOWER 2011. The state legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown recently answered the call for more clean, affordable, and homegrown energy by enacting the strongest renewable target in the U.S.—33 percent renewables by 2020. As a result of such strong policies, 600 MW of wind power are currently under construction in the state—more wind capacity than the state has installed in any single year in the last decade. When those megawatts come online, almost 1 million California homes will be powered by wind.

 California is already reaping the economic benefits of its strong policies, as the wind industry now supports 15 wind-related manufacturing facilities in the state. In addition, 4,000-5,000 permanent workers help maintain and operate the 3,177 megawatts already online in California, while local jurisdictions gain much-needed tax revenue from wind farms.

The state already gets more than 3 percent of its generation from wind on average, peaking at over 5 percent, according to the state's grid operator.

Overall, America is ahead of schedule to make 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030, the goal identified during the Bush administration.

Offshore Wind Marches Forward

This year is already guaranteed to be the biggest yet for offshore wind milestones in the U.S., including:

  • In February, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu unveiled a coordinated strategic plan, A National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States, $50.5 million in funding opportunities for projects that support offshore wind energy deployment.  which pursues the deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030. They announced 

  • Also in February, the Secretary of the Interior announced the creation of high-priority Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) through the “Smart from the Start” Initiative, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) designated the leasing areas included in the Delaware and Maryland Requests for Information (RFIs) as WEAs. This announcement also designated WEAs off the coasts of New Jersey and Virginia, and outlined plans to identify additional WEAs off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island this spring. 

  • In March, the Secretary of the Interior and BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich announced the initiation of the process to offer the first commercial wind lease under the “Smart from the Start” Initiative off the coast of Delaware. The decision followed a determination that there was no competing interest for commercial wind energy development there at present. 

  • In April, BOEMRE announced a Call for Information and Nominations (Call) for wind energy development offshore of New Jersey.

  • Also in April, the Secretary of the Interior announced that BOEMRE approved a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the long-awaited Cape Wind project, in Massachusetts. Construction of this project could begin as early as the fall.

Additional RFIs and Calls are expected soon in a number of states, including Rhode Island, and this follows the announcement of RFIs for Maryland and Massachusetts in late 2010.

The WINDPOWER 2011 Conference and Exhibition, the world’s largest wind energy event, runs through Wednesday, May 25. Registration is still open at the door and more information can be found at www.windpowerexpo.com. Featuring nearly 20 football fields of exhibit space, the exhibition includes more than 1,150 exhibitors doing business, and the conference program includes 50 sessions covering virtually every aspect of the fast-growing industry.

 

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Anyah is the Associate Editor & Speechwriter at the American Wind Energy Association, where she has worked since 2009. At AWEA, she contributes to online and print publications, including the Association newsletter, the Wind Energy Weekly. She als...

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