by Phil Devita
Steve Barrett and I just returned from the annual America Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Windpower 2012 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. We co-authored a poster presentation titled “Municipal Wind Turbine Community Complaints and Noise Measurement Evaluation” summarizing HMMH’s noise assessment for the town of Falmouth Wind-1 and Wind-2 turbines. The poster session was well attended and there was a lot of interest on the project and our analysis.
The Windpower conference is the world’s largest wind energy event attracting a wide range of industry, manufacturers and transportation companies just to name a few. This year’s conference theme was a “call to action” to extending the production tax credit (PTC) which expires at the end of the year. The PTC is the primary policy driver for wind projects, and without it, there will be a lot of uncertainty moving forward which could impact future wind development. One study conducted found that extending the PTC would allow the industry to create 100,000 jobs in four years, while an expiration of the PTC could cause a loss of up to 37,000 jobs.
There were numerous speakers at the conference including republicans and democrats that agree the PTC should be renewed this year. Unlike many issues these days in Washington, the PTC enjoys bi-partisan support. However, unlike other years, this year is an election year and many politicians are unwilling to go on the record pro or against any issues until after the election. The hope is with strong bipartisan support, the PTC will be extended before the November elections; however, it is more likely the PTC may be attached to another bill after the elections but before the end of the year.
Some of the interesting speakers this year were Ted Turner (he also spoke at last year’s conference in Anaheim), who kicked off the conference and welcomed AWEA to his hometown and talked colorfully as only Ted Turner can, about the need for more renewable energy and passing the PTC immediately. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe from Arkansas and Republican Governor Sam Brownback from Kansas both delivered great talks on how the wind industry contributes jobs to their states but in different ways. Arkansas has attracted manufacturing and supply-chain companies while Kansas is scheduled to develop 1,400 MW of wind in 2012, more than doubling the states wind capacity.
The second day picked up the bipartisan theme with a lively discussion between Karl Rove, former deputy Chief of Staff and adviser to President Bush, and Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary and senior adviser to President Obama. You would have thought going into the discussion that these gentlemen representing opposite views politically could not agree on the time of day never mind energy issues. Well surprisingly, there was a lot of common ground on energy issues, including wind energy and extension of the PTC. Both agreed that wind energy should be part of the energy mix and extension of the PTC should happen and that it should be extended for more than one year. It was a great view of the current state of Washington politics from two people who are directly involved with many of these issues at the highest levels of government.
After hearing from all the speakers and the call to action to renew the PTC from both sides of the political aisle, it will be fascinating to see how this high stakes poker game plays out. Let’s hope the PTC ends up on the winning hand and is extended for years to come.