Wind power is an American success story. Wind turbine component manufacturing or support facilities exist in all 50 states. Domestic content for wind farm projects is around 60%, meaning American jobs are helping build America’s domestic energy industry. In 2014, American companies exported about half a billion dollars worth of wind turbine components around the globe. A few major manufacturers here in the southern United States include General Electric’s turbine facility in Pensacola, Florida, Blade Dynamics in New Orleans, ZF Windpower in Georgia, PPG Industries in North Carolina, LM Blades in Little Rock, just to name a few.
Certainly some risk exists with wind turbines; however, the risk from wind farms appears to be less than being struck by lightning and certainly less dangerous than fossil fuels. Still, wind developers have a responsibility to ensure projects are built to meet or exceed safety standards and to benefit the local communities.
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.
North Carolina’s Senate Bill 843 was introduced recently, and if implemented, would flush the entire renewable energy industry down the toilet.
Yet again, Tennessee senior senator, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), has channelled his inner Don Quixote and is tilting at windmills – well, wind turbines to be exact. Just this week he took to the senate floor in Washington, D.C. to bash wind energy using his same old outdated arguments. Sen. Alexander has now set his sites on a proposed wind farm in Cumberland County, TN.
In his latest anti-wind campaign, Sen. Alexander used a photo of a poorly planned Palm Springs, CA wind project to bolster his claim that the proposed Crab Orchard Wind Project, pursued by Apex Clean Energy, would ruin the scenic views and environment in Cumberland County. But where is Sen. Alexander’s outrage with actual projects in Tennessee that are currently ruining communities scenic views and threatening the surrounding environment???
This year may be the biggest year for wind energy in the South. A number of factors are working together to create a massive market for wind energy all across the country. Some of the important factors include: technology has significantly improved, utilities are becoming more familiar with integrating wind energy, key federal tax incentives have been renewed and utilities are beginning to hedge against risks associated with fossil fuels.
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.
2016 is the year to act on wind power in a big way and the clock is ticking. At the end of 2015, Congress passed a long-term phaseout of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy – a key federal incentive for the industry that continues to drive down the cost of wind energy.
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.
Because of the PTC phaseout, there is a real urgency for wind farm development to begin as soon as possible. Electric utilities that delay purchase of wind energy resources may end up losing hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in ratepayer savings due to a reduction in the federal PTC value.