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AWEA 2017: Day one - as it happened

UNITED STATES: Windpower Monthly brings you updates from the first day of Windpower 2017, the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) annual conference and exhibition, this year in Anaheim, California (23-25 May).

AWEA Windpower 2017 is taking place at the Anaheim Convention Centre, Los Angeles, California
AWEA Windpower 2017 is taking place at the Anaheim Convention Centre, Los Angeles, California

This year's live blog is brought to you in association with GE Renewable Energy.

Refresh this page for the latest updates from AWEA's Windpower 2017 conference in Anaheim, California. If you're at the event, please visit the Windpower Monthly stand. 

16:53 - That's it from the day one live blog of Windpower 2017 at Anaheim in California, in association with GE Renewable Energy. 

A really busy day, which you can catch up with by reading below. Join us again tomorrow for day two of the conference with more news and views from the show. 

Bottles of beer await conference goers at the end of the day in Anaheim.

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16:25 - At the same roundtable event, GE also announced that it has so far repowered 300 of its turbines, which it says is the equivalent of adding 75 turbines worth of output.

Partial repowering of a turbine — for example retaining the tower but upgrading other components – can increase a turbine's power output by 25% and extend its life for 10 to 20 years, said Anne McEntee, GE Renewable Energy vice president and Services CEO. 

Elsewhere, GE Energy Financial Services also said it has surpassed $15 billion in renewable energy investments.

David Nason, president of the financial services business of GE, told reporters that the company will invest more in offshore wind as it become more comfortable with the sector.

So far, it has participated in the US's first offshore project, the 30MW Block Island, and in one offshore project in German waters.

In addition, he said he is optimistic about the US wind market after the end of the phase-out of the PTC in 2020. "I would not expect it to be a cliff," he said.

GE's onshore leader, McCabe, conceded that the conglomerate has lost ground to rivals in sales of 3MW wind turbines for land-constrained sites.

"[F]ree rein was given to the competition," he said. The company is now competing aggressively with a product in that market segment, he said.

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16:19 - At a round table event this afternoon, GE executives answered questions that had arisen about its $1.7 billion takeover of LM Wind Power.

Bloomberg recently reported that GE is currently being investigated by the European Commission for possibly submitting what the news service said was "misleading information" during a review of the company's purchase of LM Wind Power.

John Lavelle, president and CEO of GE Offshore Wind, told reporters at Windpower 2017 that the probe is confidential and that it is not clear how long it will take. 

According to Bloomberg, a source said that GE told the European Commission that it was not planning to expand into 12 MW offshore turbines. EU regulators subsequently said they found evidence to the contrary, a source reportedly said.

Lavelle said that GE has not made a final decision on plans for a turbine as large as 12MW. "Like everyone we're looking at bigger turbines," he said. "In offshore, scale matters."

Regarding the LM purchase, Pete McCabe, GE's President and CEO of Onshore Wind, said that the blade company — because it has non-GE customers — will remain "at arm's length".

"We're keeping that Chinese wall to protect that.... But we will [also] leverage synergies to turn the industry on its head," he said.

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16:07 - The US industry is caught in a "communications gap" with President Donald Trump, says Jeff Fuchs, vice-president of market fundamentals and intelligence, Vestas Americas.

Trump is famously anti-wind and is a denier of climate change, but the sector also fits with some of the president's key policy priorities.

"A lot of what Trump says he's for is what we do. Revitalising rural America? We do that. Re-energising manufacturing in the US. We do that. Hiring veterans. We do that at a 50% faster rate than the average industry," said Fuchs during AWEA"s Large Wind Turbine Manufacturers Forum.

"We need to make sure we get that message out there so he understands that."

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15:42 - GE says it has gained a "toehold" in the Chinese offshore wind market.

It is supplying three 6MW Haliade turbines for a pilot project off the coast of Fujian province in the south-east of the country.

"It's a very small project, but it's going to happen very quickly," said John Lavelle, CEO of GE's offshore wind business.

The developer is Fuqing Haixia Electricity Generation, part of the Three Gorges group.

Asked about GE's plans for the China offshore market, Lavelle said that "China is too big to ignore". He said that for the remainder of 2017, the company will assess the best strategy for offshore China. He also said that opportunities in Taiwan should not be ignored.

 

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15:30 - Major turbine manufacturers in the US expect to see a sharp drop in new orders as the $0.024/kWh PTC phases down in value.

The US industry purchased enough turbine components at the end of last year to qualify an estimated 40-65GW of projects for the 100% PTC, and now have until the end of 2020 to build them out.

New orders for turbines placed this year will qualify projects for 80% of the PTC, and next year for 60% of the PTC.

"I don't think we'll sell nearly as many as we did at the end of last year, but I hope we sell some," said Andy Holt, general manager for North America at GE Renewable Energy.

The economics of a project receiving an 80% PTC may work in some strategic markets with strong wind resources, speakers participating in AWEA's popular Large Wind Turbine Manufacturer Forum agreed.

That will improve over time with further improvements in the levelized cost of energy, so some well-capitalised developers may choose to qualify some turbines now, with the opportunity to use them in projects out to the end of 2021.

Once the PTC drops below that threshold, though, it begins to make less sense. "It's hard to do the math to make projects work at 60%," says David Halligan, CEO of Goldwind Americas.

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15:18 - Virtual reality headsets have become increasingly popular over the years, none more so than this year.

Dong Energy, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and GE Renewable Energy all have their own systems at this year's show:

GE Renewable Energy giving delegates a virtual reality look around a wind project

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14:55 - Senvion to unveil 10MW+ offshore wind turbine next month. 

While giving information on the company's new North American offerings, Senvion's vice-president of corporate communications and marketing, Immo von Fallois, revealed the German manufacturer was planning to reveal details of a 10MW+ offshore wind turbine at the WindEurope offshore event in London (6-8 June). 

He told reporters that Senvion were planning to reveal the turbine, but stopped short on giving any exact numbers.

"It's not ready now but we know when we will deliver and we have all the facts and figures," he said.

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14:42 - Capital is unlikely to be a hurdle as the US wind industry enters a period of rapid growth, say experts participating on an AWEA conference panel looking at US wind finance trends.

"It's certainly the most robust market I've seen in my career in wind, which is 12 years now," says Nicholas Knapp, managing director at CohnReznick Capital.

There are about 35 active tax equity investors in the market right now, Knapp says. "That's creating a competitive dynamic, which is one of the first times we've had that in tax equity."

Challenges do remain, however. Smaller developers are still having trouble attracting tax equity, while the other extreme, there are still only few providers able to "write the large cheques" required by projects in the 200 or 300 MW range, says Lauren Wilson, vice-president of finance at Lincoln Clean Energy.

"If you want to avoid having two, three or four tax equity investors in your project, then you are limited."

Lincoln is seeing some very competitive pricing in the debt side, said Wilson, with 40-50 banks competing to provide financing. "If you ask them, there aren't enough deals," says Keith Martin, co-head of project finance at Chadbourne and Parke LLP.

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14:16 - This year's AWEA Windpower conference and exhibition is in California, a state which has robust renewable energy plans and is bucking the trend against the Trump administration's backing of fossil fuels. 

Take a look at this piece from May's issue of Windpower Monthly: California, as much as anywhere else, is fighting back publicly against the new pro-fossil-fuel administration in the White House.

The most populous US state, it is the sixth largest economy in the world and home to one out of every eight Americans. For decades, the state has spearheaded US environmental policy.

California's ambitious climate agenda is to cut climate emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, a far more aggressive target than in any other US state.

A new RPS bill, seeking 100% electricity from renewables by 2045, would accelerate the state's current goal of 50% by 2030. The new bill would move that 2030 deadline forward to 2025.

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13:52 - On its new North American products revealed this morning, Senvion is looking for its new series of modular 2MW-class turbines and an upgraded 3.6MW machine to bring it past the 2GW mark for installed capacity in the US over the next 18 months, with the goal of eventually opening US-base manufacturing facilities.

Helmut Herold, the company's North American CEO, told a news conference that the details of the new machines will be announced later, but the new 2XM "family of products" will feature a range of rotor sizes and tower heights to allow developers to tailor machines to a variety of conditions.

The new machines "fill the gap" in a product line that tends to be focussed on larger turbines, says Herold.

Herold acknowledged it is more difficult for Senvion to compete when importing turbines from Europe, especially moving away from more accessible markets on the East Coast and Texas into the US Midwest.

But once it books 1GW of orders, it will start to look at US-based manufacturing of large components like nacelles and blades, possibly in the 2018 or 2019 timeframe.

"One of the great opportunities in the US is you have large projects. Lining up three, four, five projects would create that kind of volume."

Senvion wants to be the "challenger brand" in a market dominated by Vestas, GE and Siemens. "We are well aware of the power of the big three in the US, but we think there is a space for alternatives," added Herold.

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13:07 -

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12:51 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE Renewable Energy's wind businesses are driving growth. Click to enlarge.

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12:26 - US wind generation increase over the last decade. 

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12:08 - Following his address to the opening session, Kevin De León told reporters that it is not a stretch politically to have the California legislature pass his bill with an RPS goal of 100% renewables.

In fact, he said he made a "mistake" when he formerly introduced a bill with the California's current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 50%. "We should have shot higher," he said.

Of the Trump administration, he said: "We have members [of the administration] who are not climate deniers — they are climate liars. They know the difference."

At the same press conference, AWEA's Tom Kiernan said he believes the PTC phase-out will be respected by the current Congress. "We're confident that it will stay in place," he said.

Of the US's nascent offshore industry, he noted that major players coming to the US, such as Dong Energy, proves that the American offshore industry is getting off the ground. "They're saying 'We're here to stay. We're here to build this industry'," he said.

Asked what proportion of Trump's promised $1 trillion for infrastructure is needed for transmission. "It needs to all go into transmission and the smart grid," he said, tongue-in-cheek. 

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11:40 - Leading offshore wind developer Dong Energy is at the conference, with this model of its 400MW Anholt project, located off Denmark.

 

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11:18 - Wind currently supplies 8% of US electricity. How much will it be providing in 50 years' time, asks this morning's panel moderator.

Could be in the 40s, responds EDF RE's Grimbert. Siemens Gamesa CFO Karen Lane agrees, but GE's Pete McCabe is more optimistic. "I think it will be higher," he says. "The sky's the limit."

"I'll go for a nice even 50%," says Leeward Renewable Energy CEO Greg Wolf.

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11:06 - We said there would be product launches this week, and German manufacturer Senvion has got in early with its own. 

Senvion has unveiled a 3.6MW turbine with a 140-metre rotor for the North American market. It is an upgrade on the 3.4MW turbine previously available.

It is targetting wind sites in the US northeast and Great Lakes regions. The 3.6M140 turbine will be available for hub heights from 80- to 160-meters.

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10:59 - At the wind energy leaders panel, Grimbert said that his fear is that the outcome of the Department of Energy's upcoming study on grid reliability and renewables will be decided in advance.

In answer to a question from the moderator, he said that AWEA is not planning to ask Congress to for an extension of the Production Tax Credit, which is being phased out.

Do the recent mergers and acquisitions in wind mean the beginning of Big Wind? Karen Lane, CEO of Siemens-Gamesa Renewable Energy, Onshore Americas, said that most industries go through a consolidation phase.

On whether the supply chain should be American, Grimbert said that his company wants to buy American-made turbines because they are so hard to transport over distance. "The future will be local manufacturing."

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10:46 -

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10:42 - During his address, Tristan Grimbert said: "The agility of the grid of the future is a golden opportunity for wind." He emphasised bipartisanship, "A brand new attitude for wind is that wind works for all Americans."

Kevin de León, President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, a Democrat from Los Angeles, described California as a model for the rest of the nation and the world.

He noted that in California there are ten times as many clean energy jobs as coal mining jobs in the whole country.

"This is why President Trump's fossil fuel fetish is economically out of touch." He added: "We're not going to allow one election to destroy generations of progress."

He described the current Congress as "hostile" and said that Trump is "serving the clean energy space to the Chinese on a silver plate."

He said: "These are extraordinary times and extraordinary times call for extraordinary action."

De León, in February, introduced a bill to increase his state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 100% by 2045, up from the current 50%.

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10:34 - Lots of talk about the importance of state leadership at the opening session.

But right now, state renewable energy standards add up to only about 1GW a year on average to 2026, according to MAKE.

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10:24 - At the opening session, Tom Kiernan, President of the American Wind Energy Association, reminded the audience that wind power is now America's most prolific form of renewable energy.

US wind manufacturing jobs now number 25,000 and will grow by another 8,000 in the next four years, he said. Wind investment in America is now $14bn yearly. Over the next four years that will grow by $85 billion. "We are not just here to stay — we are here to grow and grow and grow," he said.

10:16 - New AWEA chairman Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO, EDF Renewable Energy, addresses delegates. 

"Management of the grid needs to evolve. Some call that the smart grid. The grid will evolve more in the next ten years than it has in the last 100 years.

"The grid can manage wind, there is no question about that any more."

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10:07 - Kiernan tells delegates: "We are big and we are growing." 

"We are delivering on our promises. We are adding to the economic strengths of America."

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09:59 - The opening session is about to begin...

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09:53 - We are expecting some product launches this week at Windpower 2017. The first one was announced yesterday as advisory firm DNV GL has launched an on-demand weather forecaster in the US and Canada.

The Forecaster Now is a web-based program providing short-term forecasting to energy traders and project operators.

"Forecaster Now aims to provide energy traders, plant operators and other stakeholders with immediate estimates of future wind and solar plant energy production," DNV GL said.

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09:39 - There are growing worries about the availability of engineering and construction resources in the US market’s push to built out as much capacity as possible before the full $0.024/kWh production tax credit (PTC) before it drops in value and eventually phases out.

"There is real concern about the pinch we are going to see in these resources," says Dan Shreve, a partner in Make Consulting.

Make provided its assessment of US market dynamics at its annual breakfast this morning, expecting about 50GW to be installed between now and 2021. In addition, there will be an estimated 7-8GW of repowering projects.

"We’ve heard reports that some of these repowering are not going super smooth," says Shreve. "So that is going to eat up resources, whether it is commissioning folks, or construction folks, service technicians, what have you."

Make's base case forecast for the US is 59GW between now and 2026, meaning the market is facing a sharp drop off after 2021.

The loss of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era climate strategy that Donald Trump has vowed to scrap, has knocked off about 10GW of installation potential over the next ten years by slowing the retirement of coal in a market expected to see little demand growth.

"It is a meaningful impact," says Shreve.

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09:30 - SPONSORED CONTENT: How the New GE Capital is Powering GE

Of the five GE beliefs, Stay Lean To Go Fast best illustrates GE Capital's transformation and the value it offers to its parent company, GE.

Since its announcement to reduce its size in 2014, GE Capital has restructured itself from a systemically important financial institution to a business that is strategically aligned to GE's core industrial segments.

Serving customers and markets aligned to GE to maximise shareholder value, the more focused GE Capital comprising GE Energy Financial Services, GE Capital Aviation Services and GE Industrial Finance cumulatively delivered $1.9 billion net income in 2016.

GE's core industrial businesses operate in the developing and emerging world in industries that power homes, transport products and support healthcare infrastructure, all which take considerable capital to build and sustain.

The new GE Capital is driving industry and finance to speak the same language and solve the world's greatest infrastructure challenges together.

GE Capital uses its financial strength, vast industry knowledge and deep relationships to deliver results. For example, GE Energy Financial Services has 35+ years of underwriting and risk management experience, and a global portfolio that spans oil & gas infrastructure, conventional power and renewable power.

Since it began investing in renewable energy in 2004, GE Energy Financial Services has committed more than $15 billion to wind, solar and other renewable energy projects globally. Today, renewable energy makes up fifty percent of its portfolio and is its fastest growing business segment.

It is closely aligned to GE Renewable Energy, working in partnership to bring GE-powered wind projects to completion. This combination of capital and technology is helping to deliver proven, reliable and sustainable energy solutions across the world.

Learn more and follow GE Energy Financial Services: Website | Twitter | LinkedIn

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09:04 - The show kicks off with delegates still reeling from Monday evening's misjudged informal "networking" event held at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.

A heavy metal soundtrack and an over-amplified cheerleading commentary meant that introductory conversations could only be conducted by delegates shouting into one another's ears from a distance of a few centimetres.

The many international visitors were also less than impressed by being told to give a standing ovation to "your CEO", AWEA's Tom Kiernan. And whatever Kiernan had to say was drowned out by the well-above-the-pain-threshold of the general racket.

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08:38

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08:32 - Good morning and welcome to the Windpower Monthly live blog covering the AWEA Windpower 2017 annual event and conference. 

Over the next three days, we will bring you news, analysis, videos and content from the show. You can also follow updates on our Twitter feed: @windpower_m

Coming up this morning at 10am, we'll have coverage of the opening session with: California Senate pro Tempore Kevin De León; AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan; Karen Lane, CFO, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Onshore Americas; Pete McCabe, Vice President, Onshore Wind, General Electric Renewable Energy; and Gregory Wolf, CEO, Leeward Renewable Energy.

Also on the panel will be the newly elected AWEA Board Chair Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO, EDF Renewable Energy. Grimbert replaces Chris Brown, Vestas' North American CEO, as chair. 

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