As 20,000 wind power pros prep to converge on state, California grows market

Spurred on by California’s new 33-percent clean energy target, 20,000 wind industry members and supporters will head to Anaheim, Calif., in just a few days for the WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition, May 22-25.

“The renaissance of California’s wind power market will be a hot topic at WINDPOWER this year, and many of the speakers will focus on the business opportunities there, as well as benefits to ratepayers and communities,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.

Companies of all sizes, joined by government officials, utilities, investors, and economic development promoters, will be making deals to build and develop more wind

Hosted by AWEA at the Anaheim Convention Center, the conference returns to the state where the modern wind energy industry got its start, and for good reason: California is regaining its historic leadership position in the wind sector, and making history once again.

In 1985, a ceremony in Altamont Pass marked a milestone—after four years in operation, wind power had produced as much electricity as could be generated by burning one million barrels of oil. Today’s U.S. wind industry churns out that much electricity every two days.

The state legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown recently answered the call for more clean, affordable, and homegrown energy by enacting the strongest renewable target in the U.S.—33 percent renewable electricity by 2020. As a result of such strong policies, 600 MW of wind power are currently under construction in the state— more wind capacity than the state has ever installed in any single year. When those megawatts come online, the equivalent of more than 1.5 million California homes will be powered by wind.

More new wind generating capacity was installed in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011 alone than in the industry’s first five years (1981-1985), combined. The rotors of a typical modern turbine sweep more than 20 times the area that an early 1980s turbine did—about the size of a football field.

California is already reaping the economic benefits of its strong policies, as the wind industry supports 15 wind-related manufacturing facilities in the state. In addition, 4,000-5,000 permanent workers help maintain and operate the 3,177 megawatts already online in the state, while local jurisdictions gain key tax revenue from wind farms.

The state gets more than 3 percent of its generation from wind on average, peaking at over 5 percent, according to the state’s grid operator.  That compares to an average of 7.8 percent wind power capacity on the grid in Texas, where a fourth of all wind power in America is installed, and 15.4 percent in Iowa, the nation’s leader in wind generation per capita – soon to be 20 percent.

Other states are following California’s leadership and enacting strong policies to support wind. For example:

Indiana is close to signing legislation to set a state goal of producing 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy source by 2025.
Ohio is reaping the benefits from state legislation passed in 2010 (SB 232), which has reduced the state tax burden on renewable energy by three-fourths, showing the rest of the country that Ohio is open for business.
Minnesota has just shot down overly restrictive rules on siting of wind farms, defending wind as an important generation source that diversifies the state’s portfolio.

The United States is a world leader in wind energy with 41,400 megawatts of installed capacity—enough clean energy to supply electricity to over 10 million American homes. And America’s wind power industry continues to grow. Wind power has provided 35 percent of all new U.S. electricity generating capacity since 2007–more than coal and nuclear combined, and enough to generate as much electricity as seven nuclear power plants.

Registration remains open to see the growth of the U.S. wind industry first-hand at WINDPOWER 2011 in Anaheim, Calif., May 22-25. Attendees can register online here.


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