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Wind power: industry highlights and key trends

Recently, I attended WINDPOWER 2012—the “largest annual wind event”—held in Atlanta, Georgia, this year. Here are a few key points from this year’s event:

  • > The wind industry supported more than 75,000 jobs in 2011. Of those, 30,000 were in manufacturing.
  • > The production tax credit (PTC) will expire this year unless Congress extends it. It only rewards performance and therefore is not wasted.
  • > Wind energy production is difficult to plan since the credit is only extended annually but according to Karl Rove, former advisor to President George W. Bush, politicians like to say they voted for it each year when they ask for contributions from wind industry companies. Governors of states such as Arkansas are pushing to have the next PTC extend beyond one year to facilitate wind power planning.
  • > Wind prices have dropped 90 percent since 1990 as a result of new technology.
  • > Wind production capacity has reached the 50,000 MW level and is on schedule to provide 20 percent of U.S. production by 2030. Some states are approaching that benchmark already.
  • > Large wind producers are now able to participate in independent system operator energy markets with 5 minute dispatchable generation and see it as a chance to increase their profit margin. This also releases them from requiring power purchase agreements to justify building additional wind parks.
  • > Wind farm control centers have increased their portfolios to the point that they will be critical assets when the North American Electric Reliability Corporation enforces version 4 for cyber security standards in 2017.


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