AWEA Conference: Can We Just Skip to 2010?

This week we’re at the American Wind Energy Association conference in Chicago. People are trying to stay positive, but it’s clearly a strange time for the industry.

The title of Emerging Energy Research’s new wind report, which the firm is releasing at the show, says it all: “Forget ’09, Government Measures to Boost Strong ’10 Recovery.”

Well that’s not the most positive platform on which to start a conference. ::continue::

In the midst of a financial crisis and recession that has crippled many investors in the wind space, companies all throughout the value chain are figuring out what the situation means for them. Unfortunately, it means less capital, fewer projects and lost jobs.

But it’s not all bad. As governments establish stronger long-term promotion policies and short-term stimulus packages that focus heavily on clean energy, the prospects for wind are still very, very good. Just maybe not until the end of this year or beginning of next.

So if we can’t expect much positive to happen this year, what will it mean for the industry long-term?

A lot. There will be less strain on the value chain, allowing the supply of materials, components and turbines to reach a balance with demand. This will result in a stabilization of project costs, which have skyrocketed in recent years. The process of consolidation will also speed up, strengthening many of the well-established players and eliminating some of the “frothiness” (i.e. weaker businesses, shoddy technologies and poor management) that is often seen in high-growth sectors.

But it’s kind of hard to celebrate what may be coming next year, especially during a time when businesses are failing and people are losing their jobs.

At least the industry can celebrate an incredible 2008.

Last year, the industry put 8,358 MW of projects online, growing capacity by 50%. That represented the creation of 35,000 jobs and $17 billion in economic activity. Those figures are surely something to be proud of.

In addition, President Obama has expressed unprecedented support for renewable energy, putting wind at the center of the political conversation around energy.

So while this year won’t be all that positive for the U.S. wind market, at least the industry can celebrate a great 2008 and potentially a booming 2010.

I’ll be wandering the conference halls interviewing developers, manufacturers and analysts about how these trends will impact the industry. Keep posted to the blog and our podcast later in the week to get some more tidbits.

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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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