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Breaking All AWEA Records

ImageBetween 4 and 7 June the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, USA, was the podium for the annual AWEA exhibition and conference. With over 5,000 attendees and over 290 exhibitors, Windpower 2006 was very successful. The North American wind industry is booming at the moment and everybody is optimistic that the Production Tax Credit (PTC) will be extended after 2007. This confidence was boosted when President Bush said during his State of the Union address earlier this year that wind energy has the potential to generate 20% of the US energy needs.

By Floris Siteur, Publisher, Windtech International .

{access view=!registered}Only logged in users can view the full text of the article.{/access}{access view=registered}The 2007 budget includes US$ 44 million for wind energy research – a US$ 5 million increase over FY06 levels. This will help improve the efficiency and lower the costs of new wind technologies for use in low-speed wind environments. Combined with ongoing efforts to expand access to Federal lands for wind energy development, this new funding will help dramatically increase the use of wind energy in the USA. It is clear that North America is one of the major growth markets for wind energy, and it is possible that the theme of this year’s conference, bringing wind energy more prominently into the mainstream, may well become a reality.

Leadership Forums
During the leadership forum the main topic was ‘20% wind’. What was surprising for me was that nobody (yet) has set a goal date for the USA to reach that impressive number for the contribution of wind energy to its electricity portfolio. I believe that setting a date is one of the important things to do to help make the goal become reality. Victor Abate, Vice-President of GE renewable energy, said that to reach this percentage turbine efficiency needs to be improved by at least 30% compared with the output of current turbines. He also stated that the industry should look beyond its boundaries. I very much welcome this comment as I think sometimes the manufacturers are a bit (too) conservative. To reach the greater goal, people should think outside the box. We have already published articles in Windtech International which are good examples of this and have highlighted areas which need further research and, especially, monetary investment. His third point was that the capacity should be increased. At present, a turbine is produced every four hours. This should become every 15 minutes. It is clear that a lot has to change if the 20 per cent goal is to be achieved.

During the event high profile people from the manufacturers got together in a session to debate issues. An important issue discussed was how to control the rising costs of the turbines. Leif Andersen, Vice-President of Sales of Suzlon, said it is necessarily to sell a certain type of turbine for a longer period and not to develop a different version for every possible wind condition. In other words, he advocated more standardisation in the product lines. Later during the session Anderson said that he is not sure whether we are going to see significant improvements on the manufacturing side. President Jens Soby of Vestas Americas suggested that improvements come from subtle engineering improvements rather than from major breakthroughs. I wonder whether that is enough to increase the output by the necessary 30% indicated by Abate from GE.

From the Exhibition Floor
With almost 300 exhibiting companies, the attendees had a busy schedule. All companies were spread out on one single floor.

ImageThe eye-catcher of the show was definitely the nacelle of the new 2.5MW Liberty turbine from Clipper Wind. The sides of the nacelle were taken out to give the audience a better view inside. Most components of the turbine are manufactured by Clipper itself or outsourced to licensed partners. The company is thus less dependent than some other manufacturers on suppliers . This could be an advantage for Clipper regarding capacity. At present, the Liberty is produced in the new facility the company has build in Iowa and is almost ready for delivery. The company has not yet disclosed where the first turbines will be erected. With the current market and the position of other manufacturers, Clipper is well situated to become an important international player.

Another manufacturer that is getting higher up the ladder regarding market share is Suzlon. Since the company established its international operational headquarters in Denmark in 2005 it has gradually increased its market share. According to a company official, Suzlon now ranks fifth and it is the company’s intention to become number three in the future.

Of course, we also discovered new innovative initiatives during the exhibition and I can assure you that we will report on these in future issues of Windtech International.

Overall Impression
ImageMy personal impression is that the show was very well organised by the AWEA staff and there was also a good balance between the conference and the exhibition. The exhibition was truly international, with companies from all over the world. On the other hand, many conference sessions, especially the policy and regulation sessions, were focused on the North American situation. But technology issues were, of course, not limited to North America and these were the areas of most interest to us since Windtech International focus mainly on the technology. We will certainly keep you posted on what we discovered.

Windpower 2007 will be held in Los Angeles from 3 till 6 June 2007. If you have any interest in the North American market make sure you mark these dates in your calendar.{/access}
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