Wind energy benefits for utilities

Declaring that wind power is good for the business of the energy giant that employs him, Ned Hall, president of AES North America and AES Wind Generation, took over as chairman of the American Wind Energy Association’s Board of Directors today. AES, of Arlington, Va., generates electricity in 28 countries, operating over 1,500 megawatts of wind power capacity.

Hall led the board meeting held in conjunction with the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition, the world’s largest wind energy event, which opened today in the Anaheim Convention Center and runs through Wednesday, May 25.

Hall, who also serves as chairman of Indianapolis Power and Light, explained that wind turbines brings an important element of diversity to his company’s mix of energy sources. Because wind farm has very low variable costs, it helps reduce exposure to volatile commodity prices. It is also providing economic development to rural communities in Indiana and across the U.S.

"Wind farm is growing component of the U.S. energy portfolio, providing 35% of all new generation since 2007. It is an abundant U.S. natural resource and we have a lot more opportunity for growth," said Hall.

Today, U.S. wind power contributes over 41,000 megawatts of installed capacity to the nation’s generation portfolio, enough to power the equivalent of 10 million homes. The industry now employs 75,000 Americans, who work for over 2,500 companies.

As Hall moves into the AWEA leadership position, Tom Carnahan, founder and chairman of the board of Wind Capital Group, of St. Louis, Mo., steps into Hall’s previous position as incoming chair.

"We are thrilled to have Ned Hall and Tom Carnahan in the leadership of the wind industry, for their good counsel, their ability to make the case for wind to national policymakers, and the skill they and their companies have shown in overcoming challenges to develop wind energy across the country," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.

"To be in line to chair AWEA is a tremendous honor, one that provides a unique opportunity to promote our industry and to advance America’s energy policy," said Carnahan. "Just as we built Wind Capital Group from one wind energy facility in Northwest Missouri into a national developer with projects in development across the United States, I firmly believe we can take wind from the backburner of American energy policy and make it a significant source of electricity for people in every region of America."

The WINDPOWER 2011 Conference and Exhibition, the world’s largest wind energy event, officially began this afternoon with the opening of the giant exhibition floor, several pre-conference seminars and, this evening, an opening reception. Featuring almost 20 football fields of exhibit space, the exhibition includes more than 1,150 exhibitors doing business, and the conference program includes 50 sessions covering virtually every aspect of today’s wind energy industry.

Registration is still open at the door, and more information including a detailed schedule can be found at Tomorrow’s General Session from 8:30 to 10 am will feature CNN founder and business visionary Ted Turner and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).