US grid starved of investment

Houston will host this year's American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference and exhibition (20-23 May), an appropriate choice given the size and health of the Texan wind energy market.

The state accounts for a quarter of total US wind installations, now closing in on the 100GW mark, and has more operating capacity than the next three largest states (Iowa, Oklahoma and California) combined.

If Texas was a country, it would rank fifth in the world for wind power installations, behind only China, the rest of the US, Germany and India.

While WindEurope's annual event was opened by Spain’s head of state, King Felipe VI, and several ministers of the host country travelled to Bilbao, it is safe to assume that the US’s president or his representatives will not fulfil a similar role in Houston.

Donald Trump’s ignorant contempt for wind power, which now extends to claiming that turbine noise can cause cancers, was most insidiously on display with the publication of his executive orders on energy and infrastructure in April.

The biggest block to wind power development in the US is the creaking state of the country’s electricity transmission networks.

In particular, the ambitious plans of the nascent offshore sector are hugely dependent on substantial grid investment if they are to be realised.

But Trump’s executive orders focus almost entirely on oil and gas pipelines. The need for a modern network to transmit renewables-generated electricity has simply not even been acknowledged.

As AWEA senior vice-president Amy Farrell pointed out, this is "hardly the backbone we need for a 21st century, hi-tech US economy".

Overhauling the US grid will require billion-dollar investment and close cooperation between states. The federal administration should play a major role in drawing together private investors and state jurisdictions for this crucial infrastructure programme.

That however, would require the vision, leadership skills, and a degree of honesty and integrity this White House so conspicuously lacks.

Double or nothing

GE’s decision to pull out of two of the three French offshore projects for which it was contracted to supply the 6MW Haliade-X turbine, comes as no surprise.

The continued delays in French offshore development pushed the turbine into obsolescence before it could be deployed in serious numbers.

GE is now turning all its attention to the 12MW Haliade-X, a promising-looking newcomer to the sector, but from a manufacturer with a very limited track record in offshore wind.