California grows wind energy market

Spurred on by California’s new 33-percent clean energy target, 20,000 members and supporters of the wind energy industry will head to Anaheim, Calif., in 10 days for the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition, May 22-25.

"The renaissance of California’s wind power market will be a hot topic at WINDPOWER this year, and many of the speakers will focus on the business opportunities there, as well as benefits to ratepayers and communities," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

Companies of all sizes will be making deals to build and develop more wind farm power, joined by government officials, utilities, investors, and economic development promoters.

Hosted by AWEA at the Anaheim Convention Center, the conference returns to the state where the modern wind energy industry got its start, and for good reason: California is re-gaining its historic leadership position in the wind sector, and making history once again.

In 1985, a ceremony in Altamont Pass marked a milestone—after four years in operation, wind power had produced as much electricity as could be generated by burning one million barrels of oil. Today’s U.S. wind industry churns out that much electricity every two days.

The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown recently answered the call for more clean, affordable, and homegrown energy by enacting the strongest renewable target in the U.S.—33 percent renewables by 2020. As a result of such strong policies, 600 MW of wind turbines are currently under construction in the state—more wind capacity than the state has installed in any single year in the last decade. When those megawatts come online, almost 1 million California homes will be powered by wind farm plants.

More new wind farm generating capacity was installed in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011 alone than in the industry’s first five years (1981-1985), combined. The rotors of a typical modern turbine sweep more than 20 times the area that an early 1980’s turbine did – about the size of a football field.

California is already reaping the economic benefits of its strong policies, as the wind industry supports 15 wind-related manufacturing facilities in the state. In addition, 4,000-5,000 permanent workers help maintain and operate the 3,177 megawatts already online in the state, while local jurisdictions gain key tax revenue from wind farms.

The state gets more than 3 percent of its generation from wind on average, peaking at over 5 percent, according to the state’s grid operator.

That compares to an average of 7.8 percent wind power capacity on the grid in Texas, where a fourth of all wind power in America is installed, and 15.4 percent in Iowa, the nation’s per capita leader – soon to be 20 percent.

Other states are following California’s leadership and enacting strong policies to support wind energy. For example:

Indiana is close to signing legislation to set a state goal of producing 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy source by 2025.

Ohio is reaping the benefits from state legislation passed in 2010 (SB 232), which has reduced the state tax burden on renewable energy by three-fourths, showing the rest of the country that Ohio is open for business.

Minnesota has just shot down overly restrictive rules on siting of wind farms, defending wind as an important generation source that diversifies the state’s portfolio.

The United States is a world leader in wind energy with 41,400 megawatts of installed capacity—enough clean energy to supply electricity to over 10 million American homes. America’s wind power industry continues to grow. Wind power has provided 35 percent of all new U.S. electricity generating capacity since 2007.

Registration remains open to see the growth of the U.S. wind industry first-hand at WINDPOWER2011 in Anaheim, Calif., May 22-25.