It’s an exciting time to be in the wind industry. It boasts of over 62,000 MW of onshore wind generated power, 14,000 MW more in construction, and initial offshore construction begins in East-coast waters this year and next. Those were the opening comments from an enthusiastic AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan at the recent AWEA Offshore Windpower Conference & Exhibition in Atlantic City, NJ.
Kiernan had more to say. “The 14,000 MW is more power than ever before under construction in the U.S. What’s more, we are ahead of schedule to reach 20% wind energy by 2030. Onshore wind is already driving job creation and cutting carbon, so there is significant momentum onshore,” he said.
He pointed to equally significant momentum in offshore wind energy. “That part of the industry will be here next year thanks to progress this year. For example, we have proposed projects in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Pacific Ocean, in the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. This is the year we hear more of putting steel in the water at Cape Wind’s 468-MW project off the coast of Massachusetts and the same for the 30 MW for the Deep Water project off the coast of Rhode Island,” said Kiernan.
Kiernan also credits the regulatory side for the good momentum. For instance, in May, Department of Interior asked for information on interest in areas off the coast of New York. The Department announced the largest federal water lease: 742,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts, 344,000 acres in July off New Jersey, and more in August off the Carolina and Maryland coasts,” he added.
The AWEA CEO also pointed to significant technical advancements this past year with partnerships and support from DOE. “The Department continues investing in R&D to help reduce the cost of offshore wind energy. Those who attended WINDPOWER 2014 recall that this past May, Assistant Secretary Danilson announced the finalists for the offshore wind technology demonstration projects. He said Fisherman’s Energy, Dominion Power, Principal Power will split up to $46 million over four years. That is a huge jump start for the industry,” said Kiernan.
So what will the industry do in 2015 in addition to this progress? Reminded the people you encounter of the wind industry’s four key benefits. First is fuel diversity. “You need only look to last winter with the polar vortex. New England in particular saw fuel costs spike in the winter. Wind energy is a great way to diversify fuel sources for this country,” Kiernan remarked. The second benefit is price suppression. “The reality is our product does lower prices for consumers. Third: timing. Offshore wind, especially in middle of summer, blows like crazy at the peak of the day when consumers crank up their air conditioners. So the timing of the product is spot on. And fourth: congestion pricing. Our product does reduce costs as it reduces congestion, especially on the East coast.”
Kiernan also encouraged the audience to, “Keep the momentum going. How? First, we have got to create a more stable policy environment for this industry by getting the ITC extended in this lame duck session and for the long term. This on-and-off again thing from Washington has got to end. We need a longer term extension to the ITC. Second, we have to keep working with public and private partners to keep driving down costs. And third, keep getting the message out, informing our political leaders and other partners about the benefits of offshore wind,” he added.