Wind Conference Highlights Advances and Barriers

The global wind energy industry concluded its largest conference in history, hosting more than 3,600 attendees at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. It was the first time the global wind industry has met in the United States.

Chicago, Illinois – April 1, 2004 [Solaraccess.com] The conference and exhibition showcased the latest advances in wind energy technology, from sophisticated wind assessment tools to high-tech electronic controls and advanced materials design. Technological advances are driving down the cost of wind power to levels that are increasingly cost-competitive. Wind power has expanded at an average 28% annually over the past five years in the United States. In 2003, the United States added 1,687 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable wind energy capacity; Europe added 5,467 MW during the same time period. The world’s total wind power capacity is now over 39,000 MW or enough power to serve 9 million average American homes or 19 million average European households. Despite wind power’s success in 2003, however, industry leaders converged in their assessment of the barriers to large-scale development of wind power, including inefficient and balkanized transmission systems. They expressed concern about the growth of the U.S. wind industry in the face of continuing policy uncertainty. A recurring theme was the need for governments to recognize and reflect in their policies the substantial role that wind power technology can play towards meeting objectives of security of energy supply, job creation, energy source diversity, sustainable economic growth, and climate change and pollution prevention. “With clear and consistent policy direction from the United States government, we are confident that the U.S. wind industry can provide at least 6% of the nation’s electricity by 2020, but current policy is anything but clear or consistent,” said Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Without a clear signal from Congress in the form of a long-term extension of the wind energy production tax credit, the American wind industry faces an uncertain future.” The wind energy production tax credit has expired three times over the past five years, most recently expiring on December 31, 2003, and new wind power development is on hold pending an extension. “The available wind resource in the world is more than four times the world’s total electricity consumption; less than 0.1% is currently being exploited. Thus, the potential for clean power production is still largely unexploited,” said Prof. Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “The future expansion can be significant; the global scenario Wind Force 12 demonstrates that there are no technical, economic, or resource barriers to supplying 12% of the world’s electricity needs with wind power alone by 2020 – a total of 1,200 GW of installed wind power.” Additional announcements at this year’s conference included: – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow emphasized the importance of technology diversity, and noted that wind is already reducing the price pressure on natural gas. He announced that the U.S. Department of Energy would open negotiations for public-private partnerships in low wind speed technology research. – Brazilian Vice Minister for Mines and Energy Mauricio Timno Tolmasquim announced that Brazilian President Luis Inacio da Silva was signing on March 30 a law authorizing the state-owned electric utility Eletrobras to contract for 1,100 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity. – 40% percent growth in exhibition size: The exhibition hall featured over 220 global and national exhibitors in 146,000 square feet of exhibition space-a 40% increase over 2003. The conference welcomed over 3,600 attendees and delegates. WindPower 2005 will take place in Denver, Colorado, May 15 – 18, 2005. The next Global WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition will take place in New Delhi, India in March 2006.
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