By Brent Sauser
I’ll be the first to confess that what I know about wind power could fill half a thimble. Admittedly, my focus has been on affordable solar and other renewable energy systems on a residential level. But the 2015 AWEA Wind Power Conference was a whole different world in the sustainable design universe. I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore as soon as I stepped thru the doors into the Exhibit Hall. SUITS EVERYWHERE! Who wears suits to a convention . . . and in Florida? I had to finally stop a fellow to ask him the question. He said the suit “thing” happened about 8 years ago and that the conference is intended for high-end corporate level folks. No kidding!
The Orange County Convention Center was the venue for this annual display of BIG WIND and did a fine job hosting the many elaborate exhibits, classes, and keynote addresses. You know a conference is a big deal if the Secretary of Labor drops by. Not only did the Honorable Ernest Moniz address the mass of interested wind energy enthusiasts, but walked around the exhibit hall to check out the many impressive displays.
I took my time walking the exhibit hall. It became very clear that this convention focused on BIG WIND . . . the super-sized wind generators on vast wind farms, on land or sea. Several exhibitors (like Siemens, Goldwind, and GE,) spared no expense with their exhibition space. The attached photos give a small impression of the scale and quality of exhibitors.
I learned quite a bit, actually, regarding BIG WIND and what their expectations are for the future. Among other things, it is anticipted that:
- The 30% Federal Tax Credits that are targeted to conclude at the end of 2016 WILL NOT be renewed or extended. This will account for a minimum three year slump in the wind power market, until grid parity is achieved nationwide.
- 4.8 GW of wind power was installed in 2014.
- The Midwest will install 11-14 GW of wind power in the next 10 years.
- The Mid-Atlantic region will install 14-16 GW of wind power in 2014-2023.
- Texas will install 14-16 GW of wind power including 1 GW off shore. (NOTE: 7 GW of wind power is already under construction in Texas.)
- California will install 2-5 GW of wind power in 2014-2023.
The biggest obstacles to wind power continues to be:
- The need for more transmission lines from where the wind is to where the people are.
- Environmental issues for on-shore and off-shore installations.
- The cost for conventional fossil fuels.
I have to extend a hearty “Well Done” to those who are all-in when it comes to wind power. From what I could see BIG WIND is BIG BUSINESS! Regardless of the scale, I strongly support any system, small or large, that will help to replace our outdated fossil fuel infrastructure with sustainable and renewable energy systems.
Keep it up BIG WIND! I’ll remember to bring my suit next time!