WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reflecting on a year that opened with high expectations for renewable energy policies from the new Obama Administration and was buffeted by financial and economic storms, AWEA today identified the wind industry’s top accomplishments and developments in 2009.
“Wind power is a symbol of hope in our economy and supports thousands of jobs, but U.S. wind turbine manufacturing is lagging at the very time that the global clean energy race is heating up,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “One of the most urgent measures that our government can enact is a national Renewable Electricity Standard, which will unleash in the U.S. a wave of manufacturing investment that will otherwise go overseas. Many companies are eager to enter or ramp up their activities in this sector, as this year’s highlights show, but all need to see a long-term commitment with hard targets to renewable energy in order to be able to invest.”
The top accomplishments and developments include:
* American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 Funds a Lifeline: The ARRA included several provisions to spur development of wind and other renewable energy industries along with the Treasury Grant Program, which by year end had supplied over $1.5 billion in crucial capital. Since the early July announcement to implement the stimulus bill, at least 37 different wind projects, using large and small turbines, have been recipients of the grant program, powering the equivalent of 800,000 homes and providing a lifeline for the industry and sustaining wind power as a bright spot in the economy.
* … But Manufacturing Still Lags: Wind turbine manufacturing, however, has fallen behind 2008 levels in both announcements and in production activity. While this is bad news, the good news is that a solution is readily available: A strong national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will create the market certainty that manufacturers need in order to invest, enabling the U.S. to become a wind turbine manufacturing powerhouse creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
* Strong Support for a National Renewable Electricity Standard (RES): An RES is included in the House version of climate legislation passed this spring and in pending Senate energy legislation. The wind industry, backed by popular support, continues to advocate for swift passage of a strong RES. A poll released by AWEA in May showed that over 75% of Americans, including 71% of independents and 62% of Republicans, support an RES requiring that 25% of the nation’s electricity be generated from renewable energy by 2025.
* COP15: AWEA sent a delegation to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen this month. AWEA’s participation at the conference is another indication of America’s reengagement in the international climate change process and of the key role that wind power plays today in the transition to a clean energy economy.
* National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Study Shows Conventional Power Costs Plenty: The NAS calculated that fossil fuels cost the U.S. $120 billion a year, including $62 billion from coal plants, in damages to human health. The figures do not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, or effects of some air pollutants such as mercury. The NAS study is a reminder of the high hidden cost that energy-related pollution inflicts on our society and of the environmental and economic imperative of using renewable energy.
* Avoiding Carbon: The electricity produced by the entire fleet of wind turbines installed in the U.S. through 2009 will avoid emitting over 57 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, based on the conventional mix of fuels used for electricity generation. That is equivalent to taking over 9.5 million cars off the road.
* Improving Environmental Health: The electricity produced by the entire fleet of wind turbines installed in the U.S. through 2009 will, based on the conventional mix of fuels used for electricity generation, avoid annually:
o 200,000 additional metric tons of acid-rain causing sulfur dioxide which would otherwise have to be abated to achieve the national Acid Rain Program goals;
o 80,000 additional metric tons of smog-causing nitrous oxide which would otherwise have been emitted.
* Saving Water: The electricity from the entire fleet of turbines installed through 2009 will conserve over 20 billion gallons of water annually, which would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants. Wind power makes it possible to meet our energy needs without further polluting or diminishing valuable water resources.
* R&D Funding Up: President Obama signed an $80 million appropriation for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Program. The funding, which was part of the energy and water appropriations bill, is a $25 million increase from last year and $5 million above the President’s budget request. It also includes an additional $22.8 million in funding for wind-specific projects across the country. According to International Energy Agency numbers, the $80 million allocation is the highest funding level, adjusted for inflation, since 1981.
* 20% by 2030 Report Card: “B” AWEA issued its first annual progress report card on the roadmap as outlined in the DOE 2008 “20% Wind by 2030” Report. The U.S. received a solid “B” for its 2008 progress toward reaching 20% of electricity supply from wind energy by 2030, but could be “at the high-water mark” for wind without a strong and immediate national policy commitment to renewable energy. Prepared by an in-house team of experts, some of whom worked on the DOE report, the report card examines progress in four key areas–Technology Development, Manufacturing, Siting, and Transmission & Integration.
* States Continue to Pass Laws to Support Renewable Energy: Kansas became the 29th state to adopt a renewable electricity standard (while simultaneously announcing a major new Siemens turbine production facility), Rhode Island and Delaware moved forward with provisions to facilitate offshore wind projects, Wisconsin adopted statewide siting reform to facilitate approvals for wind projects–and, despite a very tough fiscal climate for state governments, states from Illinois to Texas to Washington moved forward with significant tax changes critical to the economics of wind projects in their states
* Green Power Superhighway White Paper and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Filings Move Transmission Agenda:Inadequate transmission capacity remains a significant barrier to renewable energy development in the U.S. Nearly 300,000 MW of wind capacity is held up in the pipeline due to transmission limitations. Underscoring that fact,AWEA and the Solar Energy Industries Association issued a white paper titled “Green Power Superhighways: Building a Path to America’s Clean Energy Future,” detailing current inadequacies of the U.S. electric transmission infrastructure and offering policy solutions to address them. AWEA has also filed with the FERC on the key issue of transmission cost allocation, calling on FERC to broadly spread costs of transmission to all beneficiaries.
* Progress on Siting: AWEA welcomed a U.S. government Memorandum of Understanding to improve coordination among nine federal agencies and minimize delays in the permit approval process on federal lands. Additionally, the wind industry continued cooperative research studies on bats and other species to ensure the best science is available for decision-making.
* Property Values Study:A study released in December by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that proximity to wind energy facilities does not have a pervasive or widespread adverse effect on the property values of nearby homes.
* Sound Panel Report: A multidisciplinary panel concluded that the sounds generated by wind turbines are not harmful to human health. Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, and convened by AWEA and the Canadian Wind Energy Association, the panel undertook extensive review and analysis of the body of peer-reviewed literature on the topic.
* A Thousand Businesses Join AWEA: In another sign of the continued development and expansion of the wind industry, AWEA experienced significant growth in 2009. The association gained over 1,000 new business members—the largest increase ever for the association in a single year. Many of these new members are companies entering or seeking to enter the wind turbine supply chain.
* WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition is Nation’s Fastest Growing Show. Tradeshow Week this year named AWEA’s WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition the fastest-growing trade show in the country. WINDPOWER 2009, in Chicago, hosted over 1,200 exhibiting companies and 23,000 attendees, up from 770 exhibitors and 13,000 attendees in 2008.
* Momentum Towards First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Accelerates: The announcement of the Minerals Management Service guidelines for the siting of offshore renewable energy projects, the issuance of requests for proposals in Lakes Erie and Ontario and of power purchase agreements in the mid-Atlantic, the establishment by the U.S. Interior Department of a mid-Atlantic renewable energy office, and the participation of two Governors and record attendance at AWEA’s offshore workshop this fall are clear signs that offshore wind power is on its way to become a reality in the U.S. AWEA’s annual workshop will grow into a North American Offshore Wind Power Conference & Exposition as it moves next year to Atlantic City (http://www.offshorewindexpo.org/).
* Small Wind Systems for Homes and Businesses: The U.S. government expanded the critical federal Investment Tax Credit for small wind systems to provide an 8-year, uncapped 30% tax credit for small wind systems. AWEA expects to finalize a small turbine safety and performance standard by year’s end, and held its first Small & Community Wind Conference and Exposition to showcase these burgeoning sectors of the industry. The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency incorporated small wind systems into their popular Energy Star consumer certification program. This is the first time Energy Star has addressed electricity-generating technology.