One of the nation’s leading utilities integrating wind energy onto its system reaffirmed on the second day of WINDPOWER 2017 that wind helps sustain grid reliability while saving its consumers money. Addressing over 7,000 attendees, Xcel Energy’s CEO Ben Fowke recommitted the utility’s investment in wind energy as a low-cost way to help keep the lights on for millions of its customers across eight states.
“We’re investing in wind because of the tremendous economic value it brings to our customers. Wind energy is saving our customers billions of dollars in fuel savings,” said Fowke. “We’re also delivering on the environmental front by deeply reducing carbon emissions while providing a clean energy product our customers want.”
Xcel Energy serves millions of American homeowners and business across states in the West and Midwest, and has been the nation’s number one wind energy provider for 12 years.
Fowke further commented, “We have successfully integrated wind energy onto our system over the years without sacrificing reliability and we’re making history in the process.”
Today, wind generation makes up nearly 20 percent of Xcel Energy’s energy mix. Earlier this spring in Colorado Xcel Energy hit a record achieving an hourly production peak where wind supplied more than 68 percent of its energy.
“It’s fitting that we’re meeting in California, where entrepreneurs have used technology and visionary thinking to innovate and succeed,” said Chris Brown, President of Vestas Americas and outgoing AWEA Board Chair, in his General Session address. “We’re lowering our costs, making the grid more stable, creating jobs in rural and Rust Belt America, and delivering value to utilities and major corporate customers. That’s why I believe this industry is just getting started, and this industry’s next five years are going to be the best we’ve ever seen.”
Thanks to strong leadership by elected officials in the state, and after being an early pioneer in developing wind farms, California is currently on track to obtain 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. American wind power now supports over 102,000 jobs across all 50 states, including well-paying factory jobs. Costs are down 66 percent in just seven years, making wind energy more attractive for major retail and manufacturing brands, and utilities such as Xcel Energy.
Brown continued, “Welcome to life as an energy industry disruptor. Here’s my challenge to the industry: Seize the opportunities that our success has created, and stay focused on the vision that we set for our industry.”
Beyond leading industry executives, WINDPOWER 2017 attendees include wind techs and supply chain workers learning about the latest developments to advance affordability and productivity. Some took a moment to reflect on what working in the industry means for them, their families and their communities.
“I like being here seeing all the innovations in the industry, new technologies coming down the pipeline. It’s a chance to learn about the industry outside of the platform I work on,” said Matthew Cyre, a wind technician from Vici, Oklahoma. “I plan on moving up through the wind turbine technician program to eventually end up in management at an operations and maintenance site. Working in wind is a big part of my long-term career path.”
Matt’s wife, Brandy Cyre, is studying to get a job in wind as well. “Wind’s becoming part of our family,” she said, “with my father-in-law being a wind technician instructor and our cousin getting a job at a wind farm. As a former welder, I like to break the mold – being a woman in the industry, showing anyone can do it.”
New Iowa Governor promises wind will help ‘lead the way’
The second day of this year’s WINDPOWER conference and exhibition comes as a leading wind energy state, Iowa, swore in Kim Reynolds as its new Governor (since long-time Gov. Terry Branstad was appointed U.S. Ambassador to China). As part of Gov. Reynolds’ remarks, she promised that wind would continue to lead the way in the Hawkeye State.
“We must view our rich, renewable resources in ways never thought possible,” she said. “For years, our fields have fed the world. Now, they energize it. They produce products that fuel cars and they host wind turbines that power our communities and businesses. And yet, those fields are filled with untapped potential. Our energy plan will help us continue to lead the way in wind energy and renewable fuels. Working together, we can have the most innovative energy policy in the country.”
Wind power supports 9,000 jobs in Iowa, and has invested $13.5 billion in wind farms there. Farmers in Iowa hosting wind turbines earn $25 million a year in land lease payments, making wind their new ‘drought-resistant cash crop.’ Over 17,000 wind-related jobs and an additional $9 billion in economic activity are possible by 2020, according to a recent Navigant Consulting analysis.