Exhibitors were generally pleased with the area allotted to the exhibition. There was a record demand for exhibition space but the number of exhibitors had to be restricted to 29 by the size of the hall. "We were having to turn away potential exhibitors," said outgoing BWEA chairman David Lindley. Most major European manufacturers were there, but a notable absentee was British manufacturer Carter Wind Turbines, now under Indian ownership. The major problem for exhibitors proved to be the heat and exceptionally high humidity in the hall giving a passable effect of a sauna. A few had the foresight to bring electric fans with them, but while Britain wilted in the unaccustomed heatwave, such devices could not be bought for love nor money. "Why don't they have air conditioning?" asked an American delegate. A more typical British summer would have provided the answer.
Well organised, excellent venue but altogether too hot -- was the consensus view on BWEA-17. Most delegates rated the conference facilities highly and approved a layout more compact than in recent years. A few people were disappointed that yet again the BWEA had opted for a university venue, but the Midlands location was readily accessible and accommodation was generally agreed to be much better than past experience. At around 250, attendance was up on last year's conference at Stirling but did not reach the all time peak of 350 at York in 1993 -- a time when the industry was bursting with optimism. "In many ways the conference was better than I expected it to be. There is a more realistic attitude here this year," said a seasoned conference participant. "The last few conferences have gone from unrestrained optimism to pessimism." Although a wide range of companies was present several smaller businesses who are feeling the economic pinch sent fewer representatives this time round. Most who did attend reported that it repaid the effort.
With an increase in technical papers over last year's event there were murmurs of discontent with the format of the conference. Some delegates would prefer to see the main issues divorced altogether from the academic side. "The industry has become more professional and commercial so the conference content should reflect that," reasoned one commentator. "We need to break away from those papers where you cannot even understand all the words in the title," said another. New BWEA Chairman Tim Kirby favoured a move to more of a workshop format to include airing of important issues confronting the industry.
With temperatures soaring outside it seemed wholly appropriate that Climate Change should be the subject of the Geoff Pontin Memorial Lecture. Geoff Jenkins from the Meteorological Office showed how temperatures have risen over the last century -- particularly in recent years.
Health and safety received a higher profile than usual. The industry's safety record left a lot to be desired, claimed US consultant Paul Gipe. In a presentation that succeeded in chilling at least some of the audience he talked about the 14 wind energy related deaths that have occurred to date. The mortality rate in the wind industry is equivalent to that in coal mining in North America, he said. David Left of the Health and Safety Executive said there were compelling financial reasons why the industry should be concerned about the issue. PowerGen's Peter Clarke calculated the average cost of a lost time accident as £4200. Moreover, the high profile of wind farms meant that even a minor accident had potential for causing significant harm to the industry. Clarke and Left are members of a working group set up to produce health and safety guidelines for wind energy, currently being drafted.
Freelance science writer Georgina Ferry held a workshop on public relations. Her advice on how to handle the media was well received and judged to be helpful.
During the conference dinner, the BWEA presented awards to people throughout the UK wind industry in recognition of their contribution to wind energy in Britain. In this first round of what is intended to be a yearly event, the association appeared to be making up for lost time. More than 30 awards were presented. Four main awards went to businessman Tony Marmont for his research endowments, David Lindley of National Wind Power for industry, former BWEA chairman Ian Mays of Renewable Energy Systems who received the president's award, and Godfrey Bevan of the Department of Trade and Industry who takes the public sector award. Certificates were presented to some 30 "wind energy pioneers" for their work in breaking new ground over the years. Awards were also made to international pioneers, including Rakesh Bakshi of Vestas RRB in India for services to wind energy in India, and American Al Cavallo of thee US Department of Energy for his contribution to wind energy policy in the USA.