WINDPOWER 2012 descends on Atlanta

Revving up like the factories across America that make wind turbine components, the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition—the world’s largest annual wind energy event—got under way today with a packed schedule of educational sessions, the opening of its giant exhibition this afternoon, and the induction of the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) new board leadership for 2012-2013.

The theme for WINDPOWER 2012, Manufacturing the FUTURE today, is fitting both in terms of the 75,000 people that the U.S. wind energy industry employs (30,000 in manufacturing alone) as well as the Atlanta location for this year’s conference. A true hub of wind power manufacturing, the Southeast is home to nearly 100 factories that produce components for the industry. Today over 470 U.S. wind turbines manufacturing plants, located in every region of the country, are part of wind power’s domestic supply chain.

An Opening Reception right on the tradeshow floor will inaugurate WINDPOWER’s famous exhibition, which this year features 900-plus exhibitors that have hung out their respective shingles in an industry town square that spans nearly five football fields. Approximately 120 exhibitors hail from the Southeast, while some 60 countries will be represented on the show floor.

Following a full slate of “Industry Essentials” educational offerings happening today, the General Session schedule kicks in tomorrow with a strong lineup of speakers. To start, business icon and renewable-energy advocate Ted Turner will welcome the industry to his home town. Governors Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Mike Beebe (D-Ark.) will share some of their firsthand knowledge of how wind power has reaped major economic benefits for their respective states, and Heather Zichal, President Obama’s chief advisor on energy and environmental policy issues, will address attendees as well.

“We’re thrilled to bring the world’s biggest annual wind energy event here to Atlanta,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The Southeast is a manufacturing hub for our industry, and so it exemplifies how wind power is an American success story, creating jobs and generating economic development. Wind power has captured 35 percent of all new generating capacity since 2007, further cementing it as a mainstream energy source. At WINDPOWER 2012, which will showcase this amazing industry, we look forward to coming together to move wind power forward so that we can do our part to build a stronger America.”

WINDPOWER also marks the start of a new industry year in the sense that a new AWEA Board of Directors rolls up their sleeves and gets to work, starting with a meeting on the first day of the conference. The top industry priority is ensuring that Congress passes an extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind energy’s primary policy driver, which is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The PTC promises to be a key topic of discussion at WINDPOWER 2012.

Taking the seat of board chair is Tom Carnahan, president of Wind Rose Partners, LLC, who replaces outgoing chair Ned Hall, president of AES Wind Generation. The new incoming chair is Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America LLC. In addition to Carnahan and Alonso, officers include Steve Trenholm, CEO of E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, who will serve as secretary, and Susan Reilly, CEO of RES Americas – Renewable Energy Systems, who will serve as treasurer. New to the Board are Sandy Butterfield (Boulder Wind Power, Inc.), Richard Glick (Iberdrola Renewables), John Graham (BP Wind Energy), Jim King (Bayern LB), David Kutcher (RMT, Inc.), and John Purcell (Leeco Steel, LLC). The full AWEA board of directors is available online.

Strong programming continues Tuesday with a General Session (8:30 a.m.) that features Karl Rove (former senior advisor to President George W. Bush) and Robert Gibbs (former Press Secretary and advisor to President Obama), who will share the stage, exemplifying the bipartisan support the wind industry has earned and highlighting the opportunity for common ground our industry offers.

Tuesday’s general session will also zero in on the business of wind with a “Wind Industry Leaders Panel Discussion.” Media availabilities will follow the General Sessions on both Monday and Tuesday. Both availabilities are in room B203 (media only; for dial-in details, please RSVP to Jay Shepley (

For more information on WINDPOWER 2012, go to