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OEMs and PTC dominate AWEA

UNITED STATES: US energy secretary's Ernie Moniz appearance at this year's AWEA Windpower event in Orlando, Florida, marks only the second time someone in this role has attended an AWEA main event.

Business and government both represented at industry event in Florida
Business and government both represented at industry event in Florida

He spoke of the need to expand wind into areas where it is not yet cost-effective, using "near-term pay-offs" such as higher hub heights, longer blades, improved drive-trains and better siting. Wind could provide fivefold what it provides today, or one trillion kWh/year in America. But he said: "It might take us a decade to get there."

On the same day, Siemens Wind Power unveiled the SWT 2.3-120 turbine. An update of the 2.3MW model available in Europe, this is designed for the US market, especially areas with lower wind speeds - class II winds - and class III winds, where turbulence is more common. Available in lowand high-temperature packages, it has a wind swept area of 11,310 metres squared, and hub height options of 80 or 92.4 metres. Serial production of the US-designed turbine will start in 2017, with the nacelles assembled at the firm's facility in Hutchinson, Kansas and the aero-elastic tailored blades in Fort Madison, Iowa.

However, some of Siemens's rivals were less than overawed by product launches. Vestas US president Chris Brown said: "I can (easily) introduce vapourware." Possibly referring to Siemens' 2017 production date, he added that Vestas only unveils turbines when they are commercially available.

A year ago, Brown told Windpower Monthly that wind was in a "battle of death" with shale gas. Asked again at the event, he said: "The gas business has not done too well. And we're still here." On the subject of how Vestas is faring against competitors, he said: "The V110-2.0 is the turbine to beat," citing Vestas' recent sale of 200 V110s to Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables. "Berkshire Hathaway was our competitor's market," he said. Indeed Berkshire Hathaway's sibling, MidAmerican Energy, has bought more than 2GW of Siemens' 2.3MW turbines.

PTC future

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of talk about the production tax credit (PTC) and the future of US wind. Brown said he expects the PTC to be extended, probably for a year. Analysts, however, are deeply divided, with some expecting it to end.

Michael Storch, executive vice president of Enel Green Power North America, said that wind must wean itself off the PTC, saying it "has to be ancient history". He also cited negative perceptions of wind such as bird kills, which are not seen in the context of those killed by buildings.

One company with big plans for the US is Acciona. It aims this year to install 805.5MW in North America. As much as 94% of this will be 3MW models, said CEO Jose Luis Blanco. These installations represent almost 60% of the Spanish-based firm's planned global output for 2015. It installed only 30MW of turbines in the region in 2014.

GE used the event to unveil its "Digital Wind Farm", using holograms so project design and operation can be enhanced and problems resolved. GE head of renewables Anne McEntee claimed a completed project can produce up to 20% more power annually than its existing technology.

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