WINDPOWER 2011: Google embraces wind energy

Stable policy to create a predictable business environment is the key to continued growth of American wind power, and most pressing is the need to extend the frustratingly short-term federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), and not wait until it expires in 2012. That was the unified message from Tuesday’s general session at the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition, the world’s largest wind energy event, now in its final day in Anaheim, Calif.

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), whose home district is just north of Anaheim, kicked off the session with a pre-recorded video touting the need for policy stability in order for America to access more reliable and affordable clean energy—the kind that promises to add jobs and foster investment in America, from its rural farming communities to its historic manufacturing centers.

At this year’s conference, and particularly in Tuesday’s general session, the focus has been on concrete actions participants can take to ensure the kind of stable policy environment under which other energy sources operate. AWEA Senior Vice President for Public Policy Rob Gramlich encouraged attendees to sign up at to receive legislative action alerts along with an array of resources. Gramlich also explained how, while at WINDPOWER 2011, attendees can contribute to the “I Pledge” campaign, an initiative allowing participants to commit to taking three steps in three months to help grow American wind power. (The “I Pledge” booth can be found outside of Exhibit Hall C at the Anaheim Convention Center.)

Google’s Needham highlights company’s renewables play

Also on Tuesday, speaker Rick Needham, director of green business operations and strategy for technology giant Google, discussed the technology company’s commitment to renewable energy. Since 2007 the company has been working to be carbon-neutral, through energy efficiency initiatives as well as by using renewable energy for its operations while offsetting the balance of its carbon emissions.

Google, though, is not just a renewable energy consumer. The company is making a renewable energy business play. True to its cutting-edge reputation, Google is working on a proposed multi-million dollar offshore transmission project, Atlantic Wind Connection, that would serve as a backbone for offshore wind projects off the East Coast. In addition, the company is investing in land-based wind projects, and directly purchases 215 megawatts of wind power.

“Energy drives our business, so we want it to be as clean as possible,” said Needham. “The wind industry is particularly important in developing a clean energy economy at home and abroad…Next time you search [on the Internet], trust that we can deliver to you as efficiently and cleanly as possible.”

Industry leaders panel

AWEA Board of Directors Chairman Ned Hall, president of AES North America, moderated the featured leaders’ panel, guiding the discussion around three top priorities for the wind energy industry in the coming year. He identified those three top priorities as extending the PTC beyond 2012, addressing growing siting issues that are holding up project development, and getting new transmission built. Participants included Vic Abate, vice president for renewables for GE Energy; Sonny Garg, president of Exelon Power; Pedro Pizarro, president of the Edison Mission Group; Steve Trenholm, CEO of E.On Climate & Renewables North America; and Jan Blittersdorf, president and CEO of NRG Systems.

Although the panelists remained relatively optimistic on the industry’s ability to address its upcoming challenges, the need to extend the PTC figured prominently in the discussion. They, too, noted the need for activism and outreach in educating members of Congress about wind power so that stable policies can be implemented that will provide businesses time to plan and grow the project development and industry manufacturing base on American soil.

70-percent sold out: exhibitors prepping WINDPOWER 2012

As the WINDPOWER conference geared up for its final day, a successful week for exhibitors prompted many of them to start turning their attention to next year—and they were wise to do so. Exhibition space for WINDPOWER 2012, which takes place June 3-6 in Atlanta, Ga., is already 70 percent sold out. Prospective WINDPOWER 2012 exhibitors can secure their spot at the AWEA booth here in Anaheim.