AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2019, the largest annual wind event in North America, returned to Houston this week, and for good reason. The state currently has as much wind generating capacity as the entire U.S. did in 2008 (when WINDPOWER was last held in Houston). Indeed, the Lone Star state certainly stands alone in the country when it comes to installed wind power, reaching close to 26 GW. Texas also supports more than 25,000 industry jobs, according to AWEA, and serves as an example of what’s possible for wind energy.
WINDPOWER 2019 attracted close to 7,000 people from different companies and sectors within the wind industry, and clean energy in general. This year’s event theme, WIND+ — which highlighted hybrid systems and diverse energy systems working together — will carry forward to next year’s show.
During the Opening Session, AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan, introduced CLEANPOWER, a new exhibition hub that will feature utility-scale wind, solar, and energy storage industries, when WINDPOWER 2020 visits Denver next June.
“We’ve welcomed multi-technology businesses at WINDPOWER for years,” said Kiernan. “Now we’re throwing the doors open, creating an even bigger opportunity for companies in wind, solar, storage, and other clean energy technologies to learn and do business across the utility-scale power sector.”
Here are some other highlights from the show…
Wind is breaking records
“We have extraordinary momentum,” said Kiernan, during his opening presentation, and one only needs to look at the numbers for proof. Currently, 39 GW of wind is under construction or in the advanced stages of development in the U.S.
“That is like building Texas, California, and Iowa wind [development] all over again,” he added. Strong industry growth such as this also means jobs. The wind industry employs 114,000 workers in construction, manufacturing, O&M, and other roles, in 50 states. Wind technicians are one of the fastest growing jobs in America for the last three years in a row.
Additionally, a recent AWEA report found wind energy contributes more than $1 billion per year to communities across the country, including more than $750 billion per year in state taxes, so that cities can provide for infrastructures such as schools, roads, and services. It also includes more than $250,000 in land-lease payments to local farmers that use wind energy.
Turbines are gaining longevity
As the industry welcomes new development, it must also address aging onshore wind farms. So, the adage “in with the new” is true. However, “out with the old” may be avoidable, thanks to advances in predictive maintenance and AI systems and repowering. Essentially, the wind industry is increasing the longevity of its assets and optimizing wind production.
For example, software company, Clir Renewables’ AI platform has evolved to learn how to identify anomalies in wind-turbine component temperatures to detect failures at an earlier stage and avoid false positives. In addition, Ensemble Energy is currently working to expand its predictive maintenance platform, Energy.ML. This system helps operators increase energy production, predict, and prevent failures for better O&M planning.
Big data company, BladeEdge, demonstrated “EDDIE” at the wind show this week. According to the company, EDDIE is the world’s first AI image analysis engine designed specifically for the wind industry that enables automated condition assessments of blade inspection images, data-analytic processing, and report generation.
Regarding repowering, GE Renewable Energy announced during WINDPOWER 2019 that it has repowered an impressive 4 GW of aging wind capacity since 2017. This includes upgrades and retrofits for more than 2,500 turbines at 36 different wind farms in the country. Repowering involves replacing older units with new, higher capacity turbines or retrofitting them with more efficient components. The aim, according to GE, is to significantly increase wind farm production and extend the life of the wind farm.
GE credits repowering for increasing the annual energy production by as much as 20% and turbine availability by 1.5% at its wind farms. However, repowering requires an individual assessment at each project, as GE Renewable Energy’s CEO, Vikas Anand, pointed out.
“Repowering existing wind-turbine technology is a complex endeavor, requiring the ability to blend new technology and equipment with aging machines,” he said.
Offshore will happen
“We’re now expecting about 15 and 20 GW of new offshore wind to be installed by 2030,” said Kiernan. There is now reason to believe the lone five-turbine, Block Island Wind Farm will no longer be the sole offshore project in the U.S.
Here are just a few recent examples of the establishment of new offshore training centers, offshore hubs, and companies setting up shop in the country.
- Massachusetts funds offshore wind workforce training programs
- Connecticut to establish offshore wind hub
- New Jersey announces Offshore Wind Supply Chain Registry
- Former Massachusetts coal plant to serve as offshore wind hub
- EnBW North America opens offshore wind business in Jersey City
- Offshore Wind Consultants to set up office in Boston
- EDP & ENGIE partner to form new global offshore venture
Changes and challenges
Despite the progress of the wind industry, Kiernan pointed out that there are challenges to bear in mind, including significant cost pressures as the production tax credits expire at the end of the year, significant volatility from tariffs and changing state laws, and intense competition and consolidations.
“We also have a fascinating integration of and synergy among utility-scale wind and solar and storage,” he said. Kiernan gave an example of Portland General Electric and NextEra Energy’s newly planned and co-located wind and solar, plus battery storage Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Oregon. It is expected to be the world’s largest hybrid project of its kind.
And perhaps by working together with other renewable sources and energy storage, wind will further maximize production and minimize its challenges. Here’s looking forward to WINDPOWER 2020 with CLEANPOWER.