AWEA Liveblog Day 2

The second day of Windpower Monthly's blog from the AWEA Windpower 2012 conference in Atlanta, covering launches and events as they happen. If you're at the event, please visit Windpower Monthly at stand 1563 Hall A.

1630 Eastern US time

For some of the world's beleaguered financial industry, the business of wind power is seen as a bright spot in a dark world. The fact that returns on investment in wind projects can be steady, safe and secure with a low risk profile indicates just how far the wind business has matured.

It is a largely untold story - but not always. "This is a very serious business for us without a doubt," said James King of the New York branch of Germany's Bayern LB bank, responding to a press question. "The banking community thinks very highly of this business." King is a veteran in financing US wind power projects.

1600 Eastern US time

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) have formed a strategic partnership to promote supply chain development in the US.

"It's very important to encourage our smaller suppliers and [let them know] it is the right time to be in the US market," said Andreas Nauen, CEO of Germany-based Repower Systems and chairman of the wind industry within VDMA. 

1520 Eastern US time

The European debt crisis is being felt in the financing of US wind projects, according to panelists at a session on project finance. Seven of the top 20 leaders in 2010 have been replaced. But as European banks retreat, Japanese, US and Canadian lenders are stepping in.

Thomas Emmons, head of renewable energy for Rabobank, said that the US should see its first bank financing of offshore wind and of Chinese wind turbines in 2012-13.

1450 Eastern US time

A new report commissioned by AWEA says that expanding Master Limited Partnerships - publicly traded limited partnerships - to renewable energy in the US could unlock up to $5.6 billion in investment between now and 2021.

MLPs partnerships are a "critical piece of the oil and gas investment toolkit" that is unavailable to renewables, says AWEA.

The report, by the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, is released this afternoon.

1350 Eastern US time

The 'PTC cliff' is sobering. As Tom Carnahan, president of Wind Rose Partners and the new president of AWEA, said this morning, "Our adversaries are on the march and our allies are precious."

But here in Atlanta, the future is also being discussed.

So perhaps Carnahan had summed up the US industry's prospects astutely when he noted that the Chinese symbol for crisis also means 'opportunity'.

1230 Eastern US time

The Western Governors' Association will release a report this coming weekend on reducing wind integration costs in the western US. That's according to Lisa Schwartz of the Regulatory Assistance Project, which authored the report.

1130 Eastern US time

* A new report from the World Wildlife Fund finds that in terms of wind technology manufacturing, the US is lagging behind China, Germany and Denmark, which together have more than 60% of the global market. Despite a growth of 30% in US demand for turbines in 2011, America's manufacturing grew only 17%.  

* Some 8000 wind turbines in the US are now 20 years old. "We are going to see a lot more repowering," said Matt Kaplan of IHS Emerging Energy Research, identifying a clear development opportunity in the US wind market. Responding to the same audience question, Dan Shreve of Make Consulting agreed that repowering holds "significant opportunities".   

* Perhaps causing quiet discomfort among several hundred industry listeners, Dan Shreve of Make Consulting said that only the smartest wind turbine manufacturers will return to profitability. The key is implementation of technology advances, said Shreve. A panel of market analysts nodded in agreement.

*A fall in wind turbine prices since the highs of 2010, to $1200/kW in 2011, is taking a while to filter through to installed costs for wind farms, says Mark Bolinger, a specialist on wind power at the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The average installed cost (capacity weighted) for a completed wind farm in 2011 was $1900/kW, he said. But the trend is downward.

1030 Eastern US time

During a session on political perspectives on energy and the presidency, it's no surprise that Karl Rove and Robert Gibbs had some views that were opposed - although as a Republican-Democrat duo they appear together often on the chat show circuit.

Rove, the key strategist behind Republican President George W Bush's two terms in the White House, assured the audience that President Obama's leadership is so lacking, the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a dead issue until after the November 6 vote. "There's going to be no resolution until after the election," he stated flatly.

Gibbs, one of Obama's closest advisors and a former White House Press Secretary, begged to differ. "I think there's a slim possibility that we can do this before the lame duck session," he told the packed session. The lame duck session occurs between the election and the start of the new presidency and congress in January. 

Shortly before, David Flitterman, chairman of Gamesa in the US, had re-iterated a common sentiment when he said -- during a panel discussion -- that the PTC extension should be passed, but that it is "only a bridge to where we want to be". That is, its usefulness is waning and something fresh is needed.

0830 Eastern US time

By 2016, the balance of the Americas market for wind turbines will change dramatically, market analyst Dan Shreve from Denmark's Make Consulting said. Currently, the US represents 90% of the entire Americas market. In 2016 that share will have fallen to 41%, Canada's share will have boomed to 27%, Brazil's to 19%, with Mexico making up the remaining 13%, he projected. Some audience members were clearly surprised.

Summary

There was a really realistic attitude during the first day of Windpower 2012. AWEA president Denise Bode opened the event stating confidently that the federal production tax credit would be extended for at least a year. The early session on the post-2012 American market was so packed that dozens of attendees had to stand. Suzlon launched a low-wind speed turbine, initially to be deployed in the North American market. GE, celebrating 10 years in the wind industry, held a mass dance - a flash mob - in one of the foyers.

Today, there will be an interesting face-off between senior Republican strategist Karl Rove and Democrat Robert Gibbs, a former White House Press Secretary and adviser to President Obama. And AWEA is releasing a white paper on the applicability of publicly traded limited partnerships - Master Limited Partnerships - for investment in wind projects.

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