The South’s newest wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, in North Carolina is a perfect example of the impact a wind farm can make on a local, rural economy. The project generated approximately 250 construction jobs and 14 permanent jobs, but these statistics just touch the surface when it comes to economic activity. The wind farm is a $400 million capital investment in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. The wind developer, Avangrid (formally Iberdrola), is now the largest taxpayer in the two counties the turbines are located in. The combination of landowner payments and local taxes add up to $1.1 million injected into the local economy a year!
A new market report by the American Wind Energy Association shows that 2016 was a record breaker for the wind industry. And signs are pointing to an equally aggressive 2017. With a total of 8,203 MW of wind energy capacity commissioned during the year, the majority of projects were completed in the last three months. The United States now contains more than 82,000 megawatts of wind power. That’s enough power for the equivalent of roughly 25 million homes.
With new opportunities on the horizon for wind energy development in Virginia, SACE is excited to attend the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) State Wind Energy Forum – Virginia on June 22 to learn more about the benefits and challenges of Virginia’s potential for land-based and offshore wind industry.
We’re off to a great start this year at AWEA’s conference in New Orleans! This year’s conference is centered around the theme “Generation Wind.” With the renewal of the Production Tax Credit and policy stability in the industry, attendees are gearing up for the next phase of wind power to begin. But what does “Generation Wind” mean to our Southern region? Over the past five years, wind turbine technology has significantly improved. Taller turbines with longer blades are now better capable of harnessing the power of the wind. These new turbines operate more reliably, more predictably and at lower costs. Thus, we believe that the next generation of wind power is here in the South.
We recently went down to New Orleans to finalize all the plans for AWEA WINDPOWER 2016 Conference & Exhibition, opening just two weeks from today. It’s the first time our annual conference has come to the Big Easy, and I wanted to show you firsthand how everything is shaping up to make for a tremendous event- more sessions, exhibitors, speakers, networking opportunities and attendees than last year. I hope you can all join us for the “refreshed” conference this year and experience what it means to be a part of #GenerationWind.
Finally, the WIND Toolkit helps eliminate any guesswork by wind energy advocates regarding newly proposed wind farm projects. Using the old 50 meter, 80 meter or 100 meter wind speed maps use to be the only way the public had any sense of what “good” wind resources looked like. However, those maps always proved too coarse for the average viewer to interpret accurately. Anti-wind activists frequently used outdated maps, some even dating back to the 1980s, to make a case against wind energy. The WIND Toolkit can now provide better analysis for stakeholders interested in learning more about wind energy. As a quick case study, the image below shows the results of the WIND Toolkit query compared to a 100 meter wind speed map in Northeastern North Carolina. The WIND Toolkit shows an average wind speed of approximately 7 meters-per-second (15.7 MPH), but the 100 meter wind map shows speeds of <6 m/s (13.4MPH). That 1 m/s difference results in the difference between a 30% capacity factor and a 40% capacity factor, based on the WIND Toolkit's power curve. In real terms, that is a 33% improvement in capacity factor. North Carolina's first wind farm recently broke ground in that region, and reports suggest average capacity factors of that wind farm to be near 40% – very similar to the results of the WIND Toolkit.
The American Wind Energy Association recently hosted its annual Siting and Environmental Compliance conference in Charleston, South Carolina, where birds, bats, and other wildlife took center stage. The conference was an excellent opportunity to learn about some of the contemporary issues with wildlife confronting the wind industry and progress toward solutions. Of particular note were two promising new technologies showcased in the conference expo that help detect birds and bats flying near wind farms and help wind farm operators curtail turbines when there is danger of collisions.
Huge amounts of wind power may soon make its way to Arkansas, Tennessee and the rest of the Southeast. Last Friday, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, announced that Department of Energy’s (DOE) participation in a new transmission project that will deliver low-cost wind energy to the South. The DOE issued their “record of decision,” completing Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 evaluation of the transmission project.
U.S. wind farms now pay $222 million dollars a year to farming families and other rural landowners, according to new data released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today, with more than $156 million dollars going to landowners in counties with below average incomes.
After each WINDPOWER conference, attendees are quickly reminded to save the date for next year’s event. Next year, the WINDPOWER 2016 Conference and Expo will remain in the southern region – and will be hosted in New Orleans. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in downtown New Orleans is just steps away from the Mississippi River, the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde and other locations that represent the full New Orleans experience.