Wind Power: Exotic No More
By EV World
"As you all know by now, this is a record year for the U.S. (wind power) market. We are expecting 2,500 megawatts of new wind coming on line here in the United States this year," AWEA President Randall Swisher told a equally record-sized audience of an estimated 4,000 attendees at the 2005 Wind Power conference and exposition in Denver, Colorado last month.
He characterized where the U.S. wind industry is today as being in "sustained take-off" mode and that he couldn't foresee it retreating back to the "dark, old days" when it was more a curiosity and tax haven than a serious utility business.
"Clearly, wind as arrived as one of the major options for the electric utility market". He noted that the industry today has only three generation options available to it: coal, natural gas and wind. "And wind competes well in the portfolio for a growing number of utilities. It is no longer something exotic..."
He added that he's tired of wind power being referred to an an "alternative" energy source, pointing out that the financial community is now taking it seriously, as attested to by Goldman Sachs' recent acquisition of wind farm developer, Zilkha, and Lehman Brothers participating in the Cape Wind project.
While these are all positive signs of strong future growth, there are storm clouds looming on the horizon that include higher steel costs due to China's booming economy, a weakened U.S. dollar, higher energy costs, as well as a shortage of turbines that has driven up the price of units.
"All of this has been exacerbated by the off-and-on availability of the production tax credit that has had a very negative impact on the costs that this industry faces. It clearly inhibits development, inhibits investment, and inhibits the future of this industry".
"Nonetheless, the potential of this industry remains enormous. We've talked for some time about seeing a 100,000 megawatt market for wind by the year 2020 as being extremely doable. That's at least a $100 billion market and the question is, what are the barriers? What do we need to do to make sure that $100 billion market is achievable"?
In the remainder of his 30-minute address, Swisher spells out what he sees are the four major obstacles and how the industry can respond. To listen to the entire speech, use the Flash-based MP3 Player below the photograph or download the file to your hard drive for playback on your favorite MP3 device.
EV World expresses its appreciation to AWEA for permitting us to record and webcast Mr. Swisher's address.