The wind industry had a good year in 2009, adding at least 7,000 MW of capacity, despite the poor economy. It followed a spectacular 2008 (8,500 MW) and terrific 2007(5,200 MW). What’s next? How does wind energy sustain the momentum and become an even more important part of the energy landscape? How does it reach its potential to help solve major energy, economic and security challenges facing the United States?
In some ways, the 2010 agenda is already set. AWEA and its members will keep working on the key items unfinished from the past year—first, getting the Congress to adopt a strong Renewable Electricity Standard, which will drive up demand. Second, we need to keep be pushing hard for transmission reform, both in Congress, and in state and federal regulatory agencies. Without a modern transmission network, wind energy cannot reach its potential.
These are big challenges, and achieving them will require not only lobbying, but public education. Many Americans still don’t understand the negative implications of our current energy practices, let alone the alternatives that are readily available. We need to explain as often as we can how wind can be safely integrated into the electricity grid; how wind protects the environment (including offshore) and benefits the communities where wind farms are located; and how increased use of wind will, in the long run, drive down overall energy costs, not increase them as critics have charged.
In the current climate, we also need to highlight what may be the most powerful argument for wind energy: that it creates jobs. Building a new energy infrastructure that includes significant wind power will be a bonanza for an American economy because it will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs. That should be our mantra and our message in 2010.