Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wind Power 2009 conference

Wind Power has arrived!

I arrived at the Wind Power 2009 conference May 4th, 2009. The first day was a preliminary day, and I attended the all day presentations on Wind Basics.

The second day started to be impressive! I went to see a number of speakers giving keynote addresses from a number of government officials. They included: Richard Daly, mayor of Chicago. Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. Spain’s Minister of the Interior Miguel Sebastian. After that, there was a round table discussion with Iowa Governor Chet Culver, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

After I left the keynote addresses, I noticed some very, very long lines of people. Many of these were people who had already registered online, and were in the express check in line. The long lines wound back and forth. I thought, wow, wind has arrived! It is now mainstream. The people who just registered that day, had to wait a long longer to get all the paperwork completed. I found out later that around 20,000 people attended. And I believe that did not include the people who also manned the booths at the trade show.

One of the things that impressed me about this conference is that it is not just another trade show, in business to make a profit. It is put on by an association that is truly committed to promoting wind power in the USA, and around the world. The seminars were very educational, and the presenters were top notch. Many came from overseas. They really wanted industry, government, and individuals to promote wind.

There were 53 seminars and many tracks. Each seminar usually had four people presenting, and one moderator. Tracks of seminars included: Project development, International track, Wind Integration, Transmission/ Markets, Technology, Policy, Business, Value Chain, Utility, Asset Management, Siting, Community/Small Wind.

All of these were very specialized areas. So, there is a lot to consider in wind. One of the recurring issues I saw discussed included variability in the wind, and the grid. The electric company would like consistent power, but because the wind varies, so does the power. There are a number of companies that are specializing in studying the wind before erecting any wind turbines. And other software companies that are specializing in predicting wind flows for the wind farms so that the utilities can plan their capacity.

There was much to see at the seminars and so I didn’t see as much of the trade show that I would have liked. But what I did see was impressive. The organizers even provided buffet lunches in the trade show halls for everyone. This was a very nice touch. You didn’t waste time wandering a long distance to get lunch, wait in line, and then walk back. Still, with all those people, you could still spend 10 minutes or more in line for the buffet.

One thing that struck me was how much was required to put up a large wind farm that could supply cities with megawatt hours of energy. It takes a number of years for the project from start to finish. Some parties involved include: wind study specialists, landowners to lease the land from, electric utilities, government, financiers, contractors to do the construction, local people who may oppose a wind farm, environmentalists, even the military who may object to wind turbines effects on their radar. The costs to put up big wind turbine projects are now measured in millions of dollars per megawatt. From one powerpoint, the average price in 2008 for large systems was about $2000 per kilowatt, so the installed price would be about $2,000,000 per megawatt. So, a 100 megawatt windfarm could have capital costs of 200 million dollars.

Small wind projects cost less. But they can have their complexities also. There is lots online about small wind already, that you can find at the American Wing Energy Association website, and the Danish Wind Industry Association.

I like to listen to successful people who speak from experience, and there were lots of such people at the conference.
Overall, very impressive. If you are going to go to a wind conference in the USA, this is definitely the one to go to.

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