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AWEA 2016: Day one - live blog

UNITED STATES: The global wind industry is in New Orleans this week (23-36 May) for the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) Windpower 2016 annual conference and exhibition.

AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan addresses the opening session at Windpower 2016
AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan addresses the opening session at Windpower 2016

Refresh this page for the latest updates from AWEA's Windpower 2016 conference in New Orleans. If you're at the event, visit Windpower Monthly's stand 1111:

17:30 - Chinese heavyweight Goldwind hopes to participate in hundreds of megawatts of wind development a year in the US for the next several years, said Goldwind Americas CEO David Halligan. The company can provide technology, financing and, ultimately, own projects, he said.

In fact, Goldwind hopes to enter the Top Tier of original equipment manufacturers in the US, currently dominated by GE, Siemens and Vestas. "I think the time is now – we have the technology and the momentum," he said.

Spanish-based independent power producer Acciona Energy — whose turbine manufacturing division was recently acquired by German manufacturer Nordex — hopes to develop a couple of wind projects yearly mostly in the US, said Juaquin Castillo, the company's senior vice president of global business development.

And for his part, Ilya Hartmann, president and CEO of Acciona Energy USA Global LLC, said he is not concerned about the outcome of the presidential election. The extension of the production tax credit is safe, he said.

The COP 21 framework will also keep the momentum going for renewables development including in the US, he says, even if the next US president is a climate denier. "Given the landscape, it’s not going to be easy to walk away," he said.

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16:17 - AWEA tweets: Testing at the Department of Energy's collegiate wind competition:

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15:51 - Utilities facing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and retire coal generation under the proposed federal clean power plan (CPP) are not rushing to make decisions on replacement generation.

David Harwood, director of renewable energy for Michigan utiliy DTE Electric says: "You're not going to put a stake in the ground now.

"You want the opprtunity to see if there is a technology breakthrough in solar or wind or storage or something else."

The US wind industry is looking to the CPP — which requires a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 — to help drive demand in the last half of next decade, once the production tax credit has expired.

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15:39 - The US market could see an uptick in turbines sales in the fourth quarter of 2016 as developers position themselves to benefit from the extended PTC, and the IRS's recent 'safe harbour' guidance, said Make Consult's Luke Lewandowski during a panel session.

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14:57 - GE will no longer sell Alstom onshore turbines, Anne McEntee announced during its press conference.

The company had not previously announced the news. However, it will continue to service them as legacy turbines.

GE acquired Alstom's power business, including the onshore and offshore wind divisions, in November 2015. 

McEntee also said GE is looking to double its market share in Europe, although she declined to give the conglomerate's current share.

GE will deliver offshore turbines this year to three projects: Block Island, an EDF project off France, and for part of the first phase of Merkur off Germany, Jerome Pecresse, president and CEO GE Renewable Energy told reporters.

He was asked about GE's interest in Adwen, the Gamesa-Areva offshore joint venture, an idea he had floated in early May. "We are not engaged in deep discussions with anybody," he said.

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14:48 - Senvion is aiming to break into the top five turbine providers to the US wind industry, says its North American CEO Helmut Herold, by targeting a 5-10% market share.

The German turbine manufacturer currently ranks ninth in the US, with 1.2GW of installed capacity.

Senvion is launching its 3.4M140 machine into the US at the event. The turbine has a 25-year design life and is intended for areas with low wind speeds and restrictions on sound output.

"We have made a very important step today," says Herold. The longer design life will help allow projects to pencil out economically in the highly competitive US market, he added.

"One of the challenges in the US market is how to address the phase out of the PTC. One answer is extending the operating life of the turbine."

Few expect the market's top three turbine manufacturers — GE, Seimens and Vestas — to lose their dominant positions.

But industry observers expect competition to ramp up as other turbine makers, including new entrants from China, try to tap into what Senvion expects will be a 70GW-plus market over the next decade.

"I have a lot of respect for the big three, but the key here is agility," says Bernhard Telgmann, Senvion's executive vice-president for product and technology. With private equity firm Centrebridge Partners now in charge, he says, Senvion is well positioned.

"We used to have slow decision-making structure. Now we are seeing decisions made overnight," says Telgmann. "It creates a momentum from the top."

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14:15 - Analysts disagree on predicted growth of US wind power over the next decade: Navigant's Bruce Hamilton expects 56GW of build from now to 2025, Make sees 73GW potential, and Bloomberg pitches in the middle at 63.9GW.

But all agree a major challenge will be a low demand environment, with load growth expected to average less than 1%, depressing levels of installation once the PTC expires.

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13:45 - Jim Bennett, renewables chief at BOEM, said the federal government will hold an auction of a leased area off New York state and New Jersey by the end of 2016. Major firms have expressed interest in the region.

Major firms have expressed interest in the region.

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13:40 - "We had hoped we would have been installing turbines offshore US by now, but we are not," said Michael Hannibal, global CEO of Siemens offshore, during an offshore session. "Yet to our surprise, we are instead installing off Taiwan."

GE plans to become a top-three player in offshore wind — and already at Windpower 2016 in New Orleans, GE was nipping at the heels of market leader Siemens: Jerome Pecresse, the company's Paris-based renewables head is participating in a GE press conference that overlaps with the offshore session featuring Siemens’ Hannibal, and chaired by Siemens' business development manager.

In early May, Pecresse had said GE was eyeing the purchase of Adwen, the Gamesa-Areva offshore collaboration. Not long before then, Siemens had considered it, but did not pursue it because of anti-trust concerns.

As an analyst told Windpower Monthly sardonically on the eve of the conference, "Siemens was looking at Adwen, so GE is interested."

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12:43 - Carmine Priore of NextEra noted the importance of cyber-security. "These turbines are all over the place – they can be out in a field. Someone could go into a turbine and access a SCADA system."

Another issue for cyber security is that a company’s IT support "may not be where you want them to be physically", said Jeff Wehner of Duke Energy Renewables.

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12:33 - Siemens released a video showing the construction of its new tall concrete towers. The towers are designed in, by, and for the US market. They help to capture stronger winds at higher altitudes, Siemens said.

The towers are over 115-metres high, meaning the turbine's tip height is over 169-metres. The video shows the installation process at MidAmerican Energy's Adams project in Iowa. 

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12:05 - During a session on O&M, panellists agreed that the wind industry still has a fair amount to learn and that the needs of maintaining the technology can differ from those of other industries.

Chris Shugart, senior vice president of operations, Pattern Energy Group, said that with gas-powered turbines, there are many data points and that problems are identified quickly.

But with wind projects: "There may be thousands of turbines each with just a few data points. It's pretty amazing what can happen out there that you're not aware of," he said.

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11:57 - At the press conference, the issue of wind's collaboration with oil and gas was raised. "A pretty strong partnership can occur" in innovation, said Vestas' North American CEO Chris Brown.

BP is seeking to have the two sectors complement each other much as possible, said BP Wind Energy North America's CFO Eric Stidman.

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11:55 - Asked about the outcome of the Clean Power Plan stay, Clean Line's president Mike Skelly was optimistic.

He said that regardless of the Clean Power Plan, "all utilities are worried about their generation mix. They believe that carbon will be regulated. That's a powerful dynamic today."

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11:28 - The exhibition hall has now opened at Windpower 2016:

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10:59 - Bringing wind's costs down will be key to the US industry's growth, said a panel of CEOs during the opening session.

"It is cost, cost, cost because solar is real and it's real in areas where we didn't think it would be," Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners said. 

Skelly was referring to the fact that although solar has always been prominent in the desert of southwest US, it is now moving into the southeast — an area where wind has struggled — and the northeast, where renewables are in demand and wind has been difficult to site.

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10:48 - GE Renewable Energy has unveiled a suite of software applications as part of its Digital Wind Farm package. 

The apps are compatible with the manufacturer's 2MW and 3MW platforms and "were developed to enhance annual energy production", GE said. 

"We are actively working with our customers to develop new software technology applications that generate more production, better availability and ultimately higher profit across the lifecycle of a wind farm," said GE onshore wind CEO Anne McEntee.

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10:10 - Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO, welcomed the wind community at the opening session by saying that American wind is on track to exceed the goal of 10% of the nation's electricity supply by 2020.

It's an "extraordinary accomplishment", he said. The US produces more wind electricity than any other nation, he noted.

"We are leading the transformation of world economics to clean power," adding, "This is our time. Our generation. Generation wind."

Kiernan also predicted that the low-carbon Clean Power Plan, once the stay is lifted, will contribute an additional 50-100GW of wind projects in America. The US Supreme Court has halted implementation of the plan while lawsuits against it are heard.

Chris Brown, Vestas North America president and the new AWEA board chairman, told attendees that wind will face a 'Valley of Death' after the production tax credit (PTC) is phased out in five years' time.

"We will face a reckoning in 2021," he said. The challenge is to make wind technology so cheap, it is the obvious choice. Natural gas is heavily subsidised, and solar cannot yet stand alone, he added.

Chris Brown warns of a 'valley of death' after PTC expires.

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09:57 - Steve Berberich, CEO of the California Independent System Operator: "Without question we'll be able to manage 50% renewables on the grid."

He also expects the state will go well beyond that mark. California has a target of 50% renewables by 2030 and Berberich believes the state is on target to meet it.

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09:53 - EDF Renewable Services have announced on LinkedIn it is launching a new wind project management service later today at Windpower 2016. 

The firm said there will be a demo at its stand 3139 at 4pm local time. 

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09:45 - Google receives 2016 award for outstanding contributions to wind energy.

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09:36 - AWEA tweets: "AWEA Chairman Chris Brown: Wind is winning because we've driven down cost, wind is chosen because its economic."

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08:59 - Opening session sponsor Siemens has the most prominent presence of wind companies so far, from its name emblazoned on stands outside the main event hall, to brochures handed out to attendees as they enter the opening session.

The company's logo even appears on your smartphone when you first enter the Windpower 2016 app.

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08:57 - Louisiana is known more for its oil and natural gas industry as well as commercial fishing, chemicals and tourism than as a wind hub.

The state has no installed wind capacity, as yet, but it does have three wind-related manufacturing facilities, one of them Gulf Island Fabrication, which manufactured the five jacket foundations recently installed at the US's first offshore wind project, Block Island.

Some predict that the US will have installed 1GW offshore by 2020, but even that will be slower than the industry had hoped, a familiar story for offshore developers.

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08:49 - Chris Brown, president of Vestas North America and newly-elected AWEA chair, is speaking at the opening session. Here, he tells Windpower Monthly the challenge for the US wind sector is to become subsidy-free so that it can succeed after the production tax credit (PTC) is fully phased out.

"You have to chew gum and walk at the same time. We must act now as if we are a commodity industry. We can't wait until 2018," he said. "The road map is clear. We either innovate or we die."

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08:43 - AWEA just tweeted: "WINDPOWER 2016 opens in just a few minutes."

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08:37 - "We're hoping that Hillary Clinton can resurrect her campaign for the benefit of the wind industry." Dan Shreve of Make Consult noted of the presidential race, during a breakfast meeting.

The likely Republican nominee Donald Trump is pro-fossil fuel, whereas his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, says she would continue President Obama's pro-renewables policies.

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08:31 - The face of America's wind farms changed radically 15 years ago as a new generation of multi-megawatt turbines from a smaller pool of manufacturers came online.

Keeping these machines in top condition is the main focus of the US's growing O&M sector.

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08:22 - At an invitation-only breakfast briefing prior to Tuesday's conference opening, Make Consulting said new rules giving US developers four years to bring projects online and still qualify for the full-value PTC — a doubling of the previous deadline — will drive thousands of MW of additional installed capacity over the next five years.

Make's Dan Shreve said the consulting firm expects the five-year PTC extension will help drive 72.7GW of new wind installations over ten years, front loaded with higher annual installations over the next five years.

The change to the commercial operation date deadline has added about 8GW to the total

The longer commercial online deadline (COD) will also give corporate buyers more time to understand and enter the wind PPA market, says Shreve.

Make forecast nearly 16GW of demand from the commercial and industrial sector over five years. "It is incredible to see how many people are looking at buying wind." 

Wind's costs will drop to $46/MWh unsubsidised by 2021, Shreve forecasts, another key driver for the market. But solar is on wind's heels. "Wind is going to have competition in the renewables space. Solar is coming on fast," he added.

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07.45 - As we wait for the event to begin, why not take a look at the latest issue of Windpower Monthly which you can pick up at our stand in the exhibition hall.

In it, we have a US special report looking at the US market following on from the five-year extension to the Production Tax Credit (PTC).

"It's going to be an exciting five years," AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan tells us. Globally, the US generated more wind power than any other country in 2015 - 191TWh, with China second at 185TWh, despite its greater installed capacity.

Due to the PTC extension, both Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and Make Consulting predict 40-41GW of new wind will be installed by 2020 in the US.

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06.45 - Welcome to Windpower Monthly's live blog covering the latest from the American Wind Enery Association's (AWEA) Windpower 2016 annual conference and exhibition. 

This year, the event takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The state has no installed wind capacity, as yet, but it does have three wind-related manufacturing facilities.

You can read more on the build-up to AWEA Windpower 2016 here.

Proceedings kick off in a few hours at 9am with the opening session in the main New Orleans Theatre at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Chris Brown, newly elected chairman of AWEA and CEO Tom Kiernan will introduce the event, followed by keynote speakers Steve Berberich of California ISO and leadership coach Steve Farber.

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