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AWEA 2017: Day two - as it happened

UNITED STATES: Coverage from day two of the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) Windpower 2017 annual conference and exhibition in Anaheim, California.

AWEA's theme for this year's show is 'A brand new attitude'
AWEA's theme for this year's show is 'A brand new attitude'

 This year's live blog is brought to you in association with GE Renewable Energy. If you missed day one, you can catch up here

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. 

17:08 - And that brings to a close day two at the AWEA Windpower 2017 exhibition and conference in Anaheim. 

Take a look back at all today's news and views from the show below.

And if you missed anything from yesterday, take a look at the Windpower Monthly live blog, in association with GE Renewable Energy, from day one here.

We'll be back tomorrow for the third and final day of Windpower 2017.

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17:03 - With wind power development outpacing the expansion of transmission capacity in the US, grid congestion challenges are likely to get worse before they get better.

With corporate buyers pushing that risk back on developers in power purchase contracts, it can expose wind farm operators to significant costs.

"At this conference, it seems to be one of the issues that is keeping people awake at night," Hudson Gilmer, vice-president of commercial markets at the energy market data analysis firm Genscape, said during a stand-alone presentation.

There is currently 136GW of wind generation in the US interconnection queue and only 35-47GW of new transmission on the drawing board to be built by 2020, he said.

Although new transmission has emerged as a key priority for AWEA, Gilmer is concerned about "a backlash from regulators and ratepayers, where they are not building transmission at the same rate they were and yet we're continuing to build renewables."

More robust analyses early in the development process could help developers avoid sites where congestion issue could emerge, and there are strategies available to help manage the risk.

There are also emerging technologies that can exploit the ability of transmission lines to carry more electricity than their rated capacity, he explained.

"Part of the challenge is convincing regulators and transmission operators that they shouldn't just reflexively continue to build transmission the way they have for the next 50 or 100 years, that the technology exists to do things in a smart way."

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16:55 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE Renewable Energy vice president of services, Anne McEntee

"Earlier this year, we decided to stand up a renewable energy services franchise. The goal was to take the best of all of our businesses and drive it across GE.

"We have 400GW of installed capacity, closed to 60GW in wind and about 350GW in hydro. So the idea is to take the best of our field services applications, the best of our training, the best of our commercial approach in each of the regions and then represent one face to the customer and one strong execution team," McEntee said at Windpower 2017.

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16:36 - There are 12 key lessons learned that are relevant to the US offshore sector, said Keith Martin, co-head of the project finance group at Chadbourne & Parke, to a packed session.

The law firm acted as counsel for the shelved Cape Wind project, it counselled the lenders for the operational 30MW Block Island project, it also worked on the stalled Fishermen's project off New Jersey and is working on projects off New York and Maryland.

1) Offshore projects are intensely political, and they need political support and to be developed quickly before that support wanes.

2) Time is of the essence — so do not spend too much time working out the finance. Act quickly.

3) A well-funded and determined opposition can kill a project, as happened so famously with the 468MW Cape Wind. So avoid a site that attracts that opposition.

4) Block Island proved that it can be better to prove a concept with a smaller project. Or tackle a project in smaller pieces.

5) No one contractor 'wraps' the entire project so make sure multi-contractor arrangements fit together. "It's a puzzle," Martin said.

6) With an offshore project's longer construction period, it is impossible to get a forward tax equity commitment at construction closing, requiring an alternate take out.

7) A debt-equity ratio of 70-30 should be planned, and a debt tenor of about five to seven years. That is because the risk premium is only about 25 basis points over the bank debt for an onshore project, according to Martin.

8) Equity can be pricey because of the smaller potential pool of lenders. The high capital cost of a project may make the project suitable for the Investment Tax Credit, not the Production Tax Credit.

9) Buy the largest turbines and put them as high as possible and as far from shore as possible, to spread the cost over a larger output. Cape Wind had a projected capacity factor of 38% while Block Island, farther from shore, is 48%.

10) Start construction as soon as possible and keep records to prove continuous construction, he said. That is for the Internal Revenue Service.

11) The scale of economies in Europe will take time to translate into lower costs in the US.

12) Hire an experienced offshore construction team, which should not be hard as European players are looking to expand into the US.

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16:14 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE Renewable Energy offshore wind CEO John Lavelle blogs on the growing momentum in US offshore wind, and GE's renewed interest in the sector:

"Sometimes it just feels as if the wind is at your back. That's a bit the mood in the US Offshore Wind Industry these days.

"For the first time in US history, a community is now fully powered by offshore wind energy, and today Block Island inhabitants get their electricity from our five GE's Haliades 150-6MW, that will produce enough power to fill the needs of local homes, and satisfy the needs during the upcoming summer tourism season.

"Annually, the local residents will save up to 1 million gallons of diesel that were burned annually.

"At GE, we are proud to have helped our customer Deepwater Water reach this important milestone for US offshore wind industry.

"With 'steel in the water,' we've taken an important step: from the theoretical to the tangible. People now can see that offshore wind can and does work for the US."

Read the rest of John Lavelle's blog post here.

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15:47 - In a politically savvy and practical move, Goldwind Americas is launching an initiative called Goldwind Works in which it will train fossil fuel workers — such as coal miners — to be wind technicians. The training will be free.

A pilot programme will be rolled out in Wyoming next month, with hands-on training potentially starting at a Goldwind project in Montana in the early autumn, says David Halligan, the CEO of Goldwind Americas. After that, the programme may be expanded to Texas.

"We have the need for technicians and we have the training. It's a win-win situation," Halligan said, speaking on the Goldwind stand at Windpower 2017. "We hire local people, so [the initiative] made sense to me."

Goldwind Americas CEO David Halligan

Halligan says that coal miners should prove to have skills that are relevant to the wind industry — they are used to working in difficult conditions and they have electrical and manual skills. And they need jobs.

Wyoming and Texas have fossil fuel-based economies and have become relatively depressed as coal is phased out and as the price of oil has plummeted.

Wyoming was also chosen because Goldwind has a conditional agreement for 1.87GW in turbines for early-stage Viridis Eolia projects in Carbon County, Wyoming, where the state's first coal mine opened 100 years ago. Goldwind also owns, or has agreed to buy, 320MW of in-development wind projects in central Texas.

In March, President Donald Trump had announced an executive order to review Obama's Clean Power Plan . Flanked by coal miners, he had said: "My administration is putting an end to the war on coal."

Economists are agreed that, in America, coal jobs are fast disappearing as the industry becomes automated and as coal become too high risk in a climate-conscious world.

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15:35 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE Renewable Energy chief digital officer Sanjeev Addala

"Renewables are going mainstream. Renewables have strong growth over the next ten- to twenty-years," Addala said.

"By embracing digitalisation, companies can apply unprecedented insights, new capabilities, new innovative business models to really capture the enormous potential," he added.

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15:29 - 

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15:24 - WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy head of offshore wind Michael Hannibal, Seaway Heavy Lifting's Jan Willem van der Graaf, Statoil Wind US' Knut Aanstad and MHI Vestas' Stewart Mullin discuss US offshore wind.

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15:15 - It's well-known that wind technician is the fastest-growing job in America.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the job category has been growing by 108% from 2014 to 2024, notes Khianti Silver, director of human resources at AWEA, speaking at Windpower 2017.

The country's second fastest growing is occupational therapist, though that will only grow by 43% by 2024.

BLS also estimates that the average US wind technician makes $52,000 yearly.

AWEA director of human resources, Khianti Silver

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15:02 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE wins 1.2GW order in Europe from Forestalia

The Forestalia Group, through the Sociedad Aragonesa Transeuropea de Energías Renovables, has been awarded a contract by Spain's Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda to develop a 1,200 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Aragón.

This builds on the tender that Forestalia won in January 2016 to develop 408.5 MW of wind farms and bioenergy stations, also in Aragón, Spain. The two contracts support Forestalia's goal to boost wind energy production in the autonomous community as well as bring renewable energy generation to an efficient, open, and competitive market.

GE Renewable Energy was selected as the technology provider supplying its wind turbines from its 3 MW product range to generate a total of 1,500 MW between the two projects.

GE will manufacture the wind turbines across three European facilities, including its Engineering Center of Excellence in Barcelona.

The wind turbine will be manufactured in Salzbergen, Germany, and blades by LM Wind Power, which was recently acquired by GE Renewable Energy and has production plants in Ponferrada and Castellón. The project will be supported by GE's service center in As Pontes.

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14:54 - Although wind energy's installed capacity is growing at rate of 11-13% a year in the US, actual production from wind energy is only increasing by about 5% annually, says Jatin Sharma, head of business development at GCube, which released a new report examining major risks to the financial performance of wind projects.

The gap seen in the US helps illustrate the report's key finding, that, across a number of markets worldwide, resource risk is now the biggest threat onshore wind projects face.

Lower-than-expected wind speeds, the result of sometime too-optimistic resource assessment, longer-term changes in the wind regime driven by climate change, and the peaks and troughs that come with El Nino and La Nina events can lead to sub-part project performance.

"A lot of our clients have been anywhere from 15-40% off in terms of their revenues relative to forecasts," says Sharma.

Companies have been hit with rating downgrades, drops in project valuations and cash calls from lenders because of low wind speeds.

As an underwriter to the wind sector, GCube has seen increased interest in products to provide revenue protection.

"Unfortunately people come to us after the fact, after they've had a bad year or a bad two or three years," Sharma said.

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14:40 - Some of the stalls at the show are a lot more hands on. The ENSA North America stand offers delegates the opportunity to participate in a mock evacuation.

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14:27 - SPONSORED CONTENT: Windpower Monthly spoke to GE Renewable Energy offshore wind CEO John Lavelle. 

John Lavelle said the US wanted to keep the momentum gained, following the completion of the nation's first offshore wind project at Block Island.

"With Block Island being the first project to be completed, there is are big ambitions now in the US.

"I don't think the US has any more challenges than you have in Europe or China or anywhere else," Lavelle added.

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14:15 - In Windpower Monthly's May issue, we took a look at how the US industry would need to ramp up its activities over the next five years of the PTC phase out.

When Congress decided at the end of 2015 to extend and phase out the PTC over an unprecedented five years, it caught the industry by surprise. Developers expected a oneor two-year extension, and planned accordingly.

"Our view is that virtually all the developers, with maybe one or two exceptions, had been on a 2016-or-bust kind-of path, and were not prioritising, spending money on, or doing anything on stuff that would occur beyond the end of 2016," said Ted Brandt, CEO of Marathon Capital.

The biggest hurdle to getting projects completed is finding a buyer for the power, said Brandt.

"We all know that what we're watching is a long-term rotation out of coal and into gas and renewables, and the competition has never been more brutal," he said. Low gas prices have driven wholesale power prices down to the point where "nobody is making money" with energy sales alone.

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14:06 - Tax reform could prove costly to US wind energy developers, who will need to find ways to reduce costs or boost revenues in order to maintain current rates of return.

Congress and the Trump Administration are united in their desire to cut corporate taxes, and although it is still not clear how low they will go, any drop in the current 35% tax rate will lower the value of the $0.024/kWh production tax credit to a project, John Eber, managing director of JP Morgan, told a session looking at the potential implications of tax reform on the sector.

"The history of the business is that revenues have not been going up, they've been going down. But costs have been going down even faster," Eber said. "If we can keep that going, we can maybe absorb the cost of a lower tax rate."

The good news is that over the long-term, the planned reforms will lower the taxes wind farm owners have to pay on income from their projects.

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13:48 - One to look out for this afternoon...

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13:36 - SPONSORED CONTENT: GE and Repower by Art Eunson, general manager, onshore wind services, GE

Whether in fashion, music, or technology... trends matter. When it comes to the wind power industry, I see two trends: First, the wind industry is maturing, and older units are now nearing their original planned end of life.

Second, as with any player in a technology-driven industry that changes rapidly, GE continues to innovate and grow as well. With our continuous technology investments, we develop new opportunities to bring value to our customers in an economically viable way.

What does that mean for our customers? By injecting new technology into our legacy platforms — and with the addition of digital tools — we have found effective and economical ways to not only extend turbine life, but also bring new value to our customers' wind farms. Our customers are now able to put more energy onto the grid than ever before.

To date, we have successfully repowered more than 300 turbines across the US, which is the equivalent of adding 75 wind turbines worth of output.

With this lifecycle extension program, the life of onshore wind turbines can be increased by up to a decade or more, making turbines more efficient and reliable while also increasing a wind farm's performance by up to 25%.

While trends do matter, substance matters even more.

And our customers know it. They understand that repowering existing wind turbine technology is a complex endeavor, affordably blending new technology and equipment with aging machines.

Several variables must be taken into consideration when considering a repower solution, including the age of existing machines, original unit configuration, previously implemented upgrades, and how the units are performing, as well as other pre-existing site conditions.

GE's repower program can include increasing a turbine's rotor size, and upgrades to the gearbox, hub, main shaft, and main bearing assembly. In line with the repower package, we offer financing solutions and bring in the entirety of the GE Store to provide a customized package for each customer. We can also include grid solutions, servicing, and forecasting.

Successfully repowering units is contingent upon deploying the highest engineering expertise and design knowledge. With the largest installed base in the US, GE is uniquely positioned for this opportunity—we look forward to working with all our customers on this exciting journey.

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13:25 - According to the latest report by the International renewable energy agency (Irena), worldwide, there are 9.8 million people employed in the renewabke energy sector in 2016. 

"Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since Irena's first annual assessment in 2012, when just over five million people were working in the sector," said IRENA director-general Adnan Amin.

"In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled.

"Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition.

"As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world," Mr. Amin added.

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13:10 - Panelists at a session on building offshore partnerships agreed the Trump administration creates uncertainty and that it is states that will lead the way.

"It's good the US is the way it is – it is the states that will make the decisions," said Alla Weinstein, founder of Trident Winds, which has submitted an unsolicited lease for a floating project off Morro Bay, California.

She noted California's current RPS of 50% renewables, which may be upped to a goal of 100%, is the sort of state-led policy that will create certainty for an offshore supply chain.

There was agreement that it would be a mistake to for states to compete against each other. They should cooperate regionally, said the panelists. "That is the number one lesson to learn from the European experience," said Weinstein.

Europe's offshore industry was not helped by having different countries competing, they said. "States will have to cooperate and not go after so much local content in the beginning," agreed Clint Johnson, senior vice president at DNV GL.

Block Island

The US' one and only offshore wind project, Block Island

Panelists were optimistic about the potential in the US offshore market because of the recent ORECs approved in Maryland, Massachusetts' upcoming solicitation for 1.6GW of offshore wind and the development activity and policy-making in New York.

"The US is the sleeping giant that is about to wake up," said Adam Thomsen, head of US growth implementation at MHI Vestas.

He even predicted the US will be the world's largest offshore market after Europe. "The momentum is real —the states in the north-east have stepped up," added DNV GL's Johnson.

"The US has moved quite a lot up our list of priorities," said Tim Fischer, vice-director of Ramboll Wind.

Make has projected that there will be roughly 2.2GW of offshore wind in the US by 2026, Fischer noted. But there will have to be "more than that" to justify a supply chain, said MHI Vestas' Thomsen.

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12:58 - LUNCH.

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12:50 - Wind turbine designs need to take into account that real world conditions are complex, and that important information is lost through simplification, said Emil Moroz, principal engineer of AWS Truepower's due diligence group.

"Designs need to take into account that conditions currently assumed to be extreme or rare events may actually be normal occurences," he said.

Shoehorning all turbine designs into the current IEC wind speed classes allows manufacturers to benefit from serial production, but fails to address site-specific conditions.

"If you've packaged up the real-world for simplification then you're missing something," he said.

"A better understanding of real-world conditions can help the design process by removing or adding conservatism."

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12:37 - SPONSORED CONTENT: The Value of $15 Billion

GE Energy Financial Services recently announced that it has committed to invest more than $15 billion in renewable energy projects globally.

The energy investing arm of GE, and GE Capital business unit, has been putting capital to work in renewable energy since 2004. Today, renewable energy makes up 50% of its portfolio and is its fastest growing business segment.

The $15 billion investment milestone underscores GE's belief that investing in clean energy is good for business, good for job creation, and good for the environment.

These investments, which include cash equity, tax equity and debt, have been made in clean energy projects that span 17 countries. They comprise 75% wind, 18% solar and seven% other renewable technologies, and have a generation capacity of 16GW.

This is enough clean energy to power 3.5 times the number of homes in the city of Los Angeles, California, avoid more than 41 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, and take the equivalent of almost nine million cars off the road.

Click to view full infographic

With demand for renewable energy increasing across the world, GE Energy Financial Services expects to continue to invest more than $1 billion a year in this segment, in support of GE, its customers and the renewable energy industry at large.

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

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12:21 - It's not just inside the conference centre where you can see what the US market has to offer.

Vehicle supplier Blade Wind Services has one its Mobile Elevating Work Platforms trucks out the front of the convention centre:

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12:16 -

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12:10 - Market rules and subsidies that keep older, inefficient fossil generating plants on the grid need to be eliminated so wind can compete on a level playing field as the production tax credit (PTC) phases out, panellists argued during this morning’s open session looking at the longer term business case for wind.

"Since 1950 renewables have had only had 3% of all the incentives and subsidies that have gone to generators, where fossil fuels have had 60% and nuclear 20%," Amy Francetic, senior vice-president of new ventures and corporate affairs with Invenergy, told the media fallowing the session.

"We’re prepared to compete and deal with our phase out. At that point we want other generating sources to live with that reality and match us."

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11:44 - SPONSORED CONTENT: Windpower Monthly spoke to GE Renewable Energy's onshore wind CEO Peter McCabe.

"We're really excited by our 3MW series that we can take out to Europe and our land-constrained markets and we really think we're going to change our dynamics," said McCabe at Windpower 2017.

McCabe also said the repowering segment offered a lot of opportunities: "The best wind sites were built out ten or fifteen years ago, with ten or fifteen year old technology.

"So you can upgrade those sites and really get a lot more economic value for our customers and utilities," McCabe said.

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11:26 - 

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11:19 - Following its announcements yesterday, Senvion has announced more products for the US and Canadian markets.

The German manufacturer has released several "after sales service" products: A rotor blade ice detection system, and turbine control upgrades, featuring a "dynamic yaw" and "Smart Turbine Start" will be made available in North America.

"All products are based on Senvion's extensive data analysis activities as well as customer feedback. They increase the Annual Energy Production (AEP), deliver a higher return on investment and lower the levelised cost of energy," the company said.

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10:55 - SPONSORED CONTENT:

Click for interactive infographic

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10:37 - 

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10:33 - Away from the session, developer and project owner Invenergy announced that GE Renewable Energy will provide cyber security for ten years for all of its existing turbines as well as future projects, a contract worth $13 million.

It is one of the largest cybersecurity deals in the history of GE's 'industrial' internet, said the companies. Invenergy is North America's largest independent, privately held clean energy provider.

The service will be provided by Wurldtech, a GE subsidiary that specialises in cybersecurity and protecting operational and information technology.

The agreement includes upgrading Invenergy's legacy controls, and upgrading and protecting their network security with Wurldtech's Opshield security.

GE and Wurldtech will also provide Invenergy with software maintenance, updates, and patches for the duration of the ten-year term.

"As online threats multiply and the electric grid goes digital, cyber security is a top priority for Invenergy," said Invenergy executive vice president and chief commerical officer, Jim Shield.

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10:24 - In his opening speech, Chris Brown, outgoing AWEA chair, said the US wind sector should not let fear of the end of wind's policy incentive distract it from the opportunity before it.

"Too many people in this room are spending too much time worrying about what politicians are going to do to us," Brown said at this morning's opening session.

The wind industry's success has attracted critics who are pushing Congress and the Trump Administration to roll back the long-term phase out of the $0.024/kWh PTC.

"Why are they criticising us? It's because we're a threat," said Brown.

Instead of worrying about the future of the market's policy incentive, the industry needs to stay the course of reducing costs and building demand. "The next five years are going to be the best we've ever seen," Brown said

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10:22 - Ben Fowke, CEO and chairman of developer Xcel Energy, joins Chris Brown on stage. 

"We can reduce carbon emissions without sacrificing affordability or reliability. Wind plays a huge role in that," he says. 

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10:12 -

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10:07 - Vestas Americas chief Chris Brown welcomes delegates to day two of Windpower 2017. "Our success has attracted some detractors who want politicians to take away that bargain we made. 

"The next five years of this industry is not going to be the end of this industry, it's going to be the best five years of your lives."

09:54 - SPONSORED CONTENT - GE Renewable Energy

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09:41 - The show floor has opened for day two. We're about 20 minutes away from the first session of the day.

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09:30 - All the big players are here: 

Vestas' stand at AWEA Windpower 2017

GE Renewable Energy stand at AWEA Windpower 2017

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09:14 - There were some product launches already yesterday. Advisory firm DNV GL has launched an on-demand weather forecaster in the US and Canada. 

Meanwhile, German manufacturer Senvion has unveiled a 3.6MW turbine and some details of a modular 2MW platform for the North American markets. 

Most interestingly, perhaps though, was the revelation that Senvion were planning to announce a 10MW+ offshore wind turbine at next month's WindEurope offshore event in London.

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08:54 - While we're waiting for the day to kick start, take a look at this video from our sponsor GE Renewable Energy:

SPONSORED CONTENT: We're excited that LM Wind Power are now a GE Renewable Energy business.

Find out more about the innovation and passion behind LM Wind Power's drive to reduce the cost of energy and see what sets LM Wind Power apart from other blade manufacturers. 

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08:45 - Hello and welcome to the Windpower Monthly live blog, in association with GE Renewable Energy, bringing you updates from AWEA's Windpower 2017 conference and exhibition in Anaheim, California. 

We are now in to day two of the event, starting with a session called "Energising the Value Proposition for Wind Energy to Support Growth Beyond 2020".

Panellists on the debate include; Chris Brown, president of Vestas Americas — and last year's AWEA chairman — Amy Francetic, senior vice president at Invenergy; Renee Carlson, procurement manager for global energy at 3M; and Aparna Narang, senior director at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

If you missed the busy first day of the show, you can catch up on everything from yesterday's live blog here.

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