This blog is the first in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida.
It’s that time of year again: the American Wind Energy Association’s annual WINDPOWER Conference has begun! For this year, the conference has returned to the South. In 2012, this conference was hosted in Atlanta, and this year, we’re reporting from sunny (and windy) Orlando, Florida. Some folks may be wondering why the industry’s largest conference is hosted in the South, since our region only has one operating wind farm; but some of the presentations that have already been made make a good case for doing business in the South. Here are three reasons why:
Development and Procurement of Wind Power in the South is Right Around the Corner
The Department of Energy’s new Wind Vision Report shows how the country could generate 20% of its electricity from wind energy by the year 2030. This report doesn’t mandate wind power purchases; but it does provide the “how-to” analysis of achieving a 20% wind energy goal. In order to achieve the goal, significant quantities of wind power would be developed within the South; additionally, the region also represents a huge market for importing wind power from other regions. As outdated coal-fired power plants retire, the South needs substantial quantities of low-cost energy – something that wind power can provide. And many utilities across the South are purchasing wind. Recently, Gulf Power (a Florida-based power company) announced a 178 megawatt wind power deal.
New Wind Turbine Technology is Greatly Expanding Economic Development Opportunities for Wind Development
New wind turbine technology, with longer blades, taller towers and better wind resource assessments, proves that the South contains economically viable wind power resources. Older wind power maps for the United States have been completely replaced with new, higher resolution and updated wind resource assessments to highlight the opportunities for the region (if you’re using a wind resource map older than 2013, you’re using outdated information). Major turbine manufacturers, including Siemens and General Electric, will be announcing at this conference brand new turbines and products that will make wind power even more economical for our region.
Wind Energy Has Hit All-Time Low Levelized Cost of Energy, and Power Purchase Agreements Save Ratepayers Money
Today, as part of a sneak peak to its annual market industry update, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory presented some preliminary figures for how the wind industry performed in 2014. Shockingly, wind power purchase agreement prices averaging in the range of $20 per megawatt hour, MWh (that’s $0.02 per kilowatt hour, kWh) are now becoming standard. Even in regions like the Great Lakes, wind power purchase agreements have reached into the $35/MWh range. Average 2014 wind power purchase agreements from around the country are now lower than even current wholesale electric prices (even in some of our extremely low-cost states in the South). Those prices are usually levelized over the course of 20 years – providing predictably priced, and lower-cost energy for utilities and consumers.
As the conference continues over the rest of the week, we’ll post a blog a day giving a snapshot of what’s going on here in Orlando. Staff will also be live Tweeting, as the opportunity strikes us. Feel free to give us a follow on Twitter at @simonmahan, @alliehbrown and @chriscarnevale.