New AWEA Board Chair: Time for presidential candidates to back American wind power for its economic benefits

Coming off a year in which the industry added 23,000 jobs and put $23 billion of private investment behind 100 wind projects, new AWEA Board Chair Mike Garland declared it’s time for the industry to start flexing its muscle.

“From the smallest companies to the largest, we have a shared responsibility to make this vision a reality,” explained Garland, President and CEO of Pattern Energy. “Everyone in this industry needs to demand a five-year PTC.” While the cost of wind power has declined over 58 percent in just five years, meeting DOE’s vision will require a long-term stable policy environment that allows for a continued downward trajectory of wind’s costs. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is the primary federal incentive for building more new wind farms.

Garland noted that Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and potential presidential candidate, has already come out in favor of a multi-year extension of the PTC, and that “it’s the industry’s job to make sure other candidates do the same.”

The new Board Chair’s comments came on the third morning of WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition, flagship event for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as 400 exhibitors and thousands of conferees attended workshops, developed new business opportunities and were still buzzing about Secretary of Energy Moniz’s visit to the industry’s largest annual event just the day before.

“What we do now will determine our success for years to come,” said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy and AWEA Board Chairman during Wednesday’s Wind Industry Leaders panel. “Let’s do our part and remind everyone that wind energy helps everyone, that wind is American’s clean, domestic and cheap fuel.”

Garland called on companies big and small to help the industry stay on track to meet the scenarios laid out in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Vision report released earlier this year. That starts with American wind power doubling from where it is today to 10 percent of the U.S. electricity mix by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and become one of the leading sources of electricity by 2050.

Expanding on Garland’s comments were six other leading wind industry executives, including Chris Brown, President of Vestas. “For us, it’s pretty simple. We want to be the undisputed global wind leader. Full stop.”

“It’s about one thing. Least cost of energy,” continued Brown. “We’re economic against a lot of forms of energy in most of the parts of the country. If we continue to drive that, we don’t become a political story, we become an economic story.”

“We really need to embrace lean innovation,” joined in Tim Maag, Vice President and General Manager, U.S. and Canada, Mortenson Wind Energy Group. “We are just starting the process of really figuring out how to become more efficient, how to identify and drive out waste in our industry.”

“We’re talking about adding 10 gigawatts a year [in meeting Wind Vision],” said James Murphy, Executive Vice President, CFO and COO of Invenergy LLC. “That’s something like $15 billion of investment. We need broaden the capital base.”

Industry leaders, advocates discuss Wind Vision

Wednesday morning’s panel on Wind Vision: An opportunity to rally the public around a future of abundant clean energy discussed more aspects of that economic story, including the creation of 380,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in tax payments to host communities in meeting the 20 percent by 2030 scenario.

“The Department of Energy’s Wind Vision report shows the tremendous growth potential of our industry and the economic and environmental benefits of continuing to grow wind power in the U.S.,” said John Kostyack, Executive Director of the Wind Energy Foundation and one of the panelists discussing the Wind Vision report. “The Wind Energy Foundation is extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm of the diverse wind energy representatives here at WINDPOWER. We’re going to continue to work hard to tell the industry’s story.”

Providing insight on how the industry can best do that was keynote speaker Jonah Berger, bestselling author of Contagious: How Things Catch On. “How can we make our messages tastier, build public support for wind energy and grow our business through word-of-mouth and referrals?” Berger asked. “Anything can be remarkable if we show people instead of telling them.”

Comanche, Texas rancher John Dudley and his wife Ginger, who are having turbines installed on a ranch in their family for over 100 years, traveled to WINDPOWER to tell attendees how wind has benefited their small, rural Texas community.

Dudley is featured in a video, where he recalls asking a neighboring rancher with turbines on his land, “Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly of the wind farm on the ranch.” He said the rancher found no bad or ugly, only benefits.

Dudley’s video is one of a series of testimonials tagged #InTheirOwnWords, which may be seen on YouTube and Facebook.

Clean the World partnership and final day

AWEA partnered this year with Clean the World, an Orlando-based organization that distributes basic hygiene products otherwise discarded by the hospitality industry. During the three busiest days at WINDPOWER, attendees from around the world were asked to stop by a special booth operated by Clean the World to compile 10 hygiene kits each for local organizations in need. A goal of assembling 9,000 kits was set at the start of the four-day conference and exhibition.

“We’re thrilled to volunteer our time to give back to the local community of Orlando in ways that benefit both women and our environment,” said Kristen Graf, Executive Director of Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). Kits assembled on Wednesday were being sent to the Women’s Residential Counseling Center, a 126-person transitional living program for single women and women with children. “It’s another way the industry continues to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. This was a great opportunity for the WoWE community to work hand in hand with AWEA in support of a great charity.”

The conference & exhibition wraps up Thursday with final panels and educational sessions, as well as the Closing General Session: Large Turbine Manufacturer Forum. That session is moderated by Edward W. Zaelke, Chair Global Projects and Finance Practice, Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Six top executives from leading large turbine manufacturers will share insights into their own companies’ successes, domestic and global markets, a trend toward consolidation in the wind energy supply chain, and the future of the industry.