This blog is the last in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida.
After each WINDPOWER conference, attendees are quickly reminded to save the date for next year’s event. Next year, the WINDPOWER 2016 Conference and Expo will remain in the southern region – and will be hosted May 23 – 26, 2016 in New Orleans. The conference will be take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in downtown New Orleans, just steps away from the Mississippi River, the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde and other locations that represent the full New Orleans experience.
The WINDPOWER conference in New Orleans represents an exciting time for wind energy in Louisiana. The Louisiana power market is rapidly changing. Over $100 billion worth of private, industrial projects have been proposed for Louisiana; projects that would require substantial quantities of new, low-cost electricity generation. Also, thousands of megawatts of older, inefficient natural gas power plants are planned for retirement over the next two decades; that’s gigawatts worth of power plants that will be replaced by some form of new power generation. Wind power could help provide substantial quantities of low-cost, clean, renewable energy to Louisiana while providing a hedge against rising natural gas prices.
In fact, wind power is already saving Louisianans on their power bills. The Southwestern Electric Power Company (a subsidiary of AEP, and utility operator in the northwestern part of Louisiana), is already purchasing 469 megawatts of clean, cheap wind power. When SWEPCO made its wind power purchase agreement announcement, the company stated that the purchase would actually reduce ratepayer costs. And now, SWEPCO has identified another 1,700 megawatts of wind power purchases it would like to complete over the next 20 years. With other renewable resources, SWEPCO plans to increase its total renewable capacity from 7% today to up to 37% of its generation capacity portfolio by 2035, predominantly by purchasing more wind power.
In addition to reducing some of Louisiana’s electric rates, the state also supports local jobs in the wind industry. When NASA announced that it would be retiring its space shuttle program, it sent a shockwave through New Orleans. The city is home to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, where the space shuttle’s external fuel tank was manufactured. In search of another large manufacturer to fill the void left from the space shuttle program, New Orleans attracted Blade Dynamics; a British company that now manufactures wind turbine blades at the Michoud Assembly Facility. Blade Dynamics’ blades are some of the most technologically advanced in the industry.
New wind speed maps released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrate the greatly increased potential for wind turbine development in Louisiana with advanced turbines and blades. As wind turbines increase in height and are able to access better wind speeds, more areas become attractive for wind energy development within Louisiana. With these new wind turbines, over 92,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in Louisiana. Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in Louisiana (1% of the state’s potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year!
So if you get the “envie” (desire) to experience the “joie de vivre” (joy of life) in New Orleans, save the date to attend the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2016 on May 23-26, 2016. See you there!