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WINDPOWER 2014 Day One Report

AWEA outlines aggressive goals, growth strategies for medium- to long-term future.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, AWEA, greeted hundreds of attendees to the 2014 WINDPOWER Conference and Convention during the event’s opening session. He also took the opportunity to remind the industry — that despite the recent strides made in wind energy production and consumption — there’s much more work to do if wind is going to realize its true potential.

“Wind power is a magical thing,” Kiernan told the audience. “But magic takes a lot of hard work.”

To that end, Kiernan outlined AWEA’s primary objectives — double wind energy by 2020 and boost wind’s share of total electrical output here the US from roughly 4 per cent today to 20 per cent by 2030. To get there, Kiernan notes, AWEA has outlined a four-pronged strategy aimed at: a) addressing demand-side issues; b) continuing to lower the costs associated with wind; c) implementation of policies and actions conducive to wind production; and d) ongoing education of US Congressman and Representatives — all of whom have influence over Federal and State policies as it relates to energy issues in the US.

Progress has already been achieved in that regard, Kiernan notes. For example, he said AWEA successfully defended the RPS in 20 states in 2013, including battlegrounds such as Kansas and Ohio. “We have also been working with the EPA on the Clean Air Act, encouraging them to be flexible with the States as to how they plan to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change,” he stated.

Furthering wind’s cause, Kiernan added, also requires ground-level grassroots efforts by the association as well as active participation of industry members across the supply chain. “We’re working to engage the approximately 80,000 people across the wind energy supply chain, with the goal to establish a stronger, more stable policy framework,” Kiernan explained.

All of this action, industry observers say, will be needed to sustain wind power’s momentum. Newly released data from AWEA showed the US wind energy installed more than 215 MW in the first quarter for 2014—exceeding the amount the industry installed in the first three quarters of 2013. The US now has an installed wind capacity of 61,327 MW, with more than 13,000 MW currently under construction — an industry record. 

In fact, there is currently more wind power capacity under construction than at any time in the history of the US wind industry, AWEA research shows. The majority of wind construction activity continues to be focused within Texas (>8,000 MW). There are over 1,000 MW under construction in Iowa, more than 700 MW under construction in Kansas, and upwards of 630 MW under construction in North Dakota. Oklahoma, home to over 1,900 MW of recent PPA activity, closed out the first quarter with just under 500 MW under construction.

On the utilities side, companies continue to sign lucrative power purchase agreements for wind power into 2014. According to AWEA research, nearly 1,000 MW of new wind PPAs have been announced during 2014, building on the roughly 8,000 MW of power purchase agreements signed during 2013.

What’s more, among the 8,000 MW of PPAs announced during 2013, approximately 5,000 MW have not yet started construction.

All this bodes well for the medium-term prospects for wind development. “The future of the wind industry is extraordinarily bright,” Kiernan concluded.

For more on the 2014 WINDPOWER Conference, look out for the forthcoming May/June issue of Renewable Energy Focus magazine. Subscribe online today!

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power