The display was perhaps the most complete representation of the wind industry supplier chain ever to appear in a US exhibit hall. With more than 220 exhibitors, it outnumbered by far the 107 exhibits at the first global wind conference, held in Paris in 2002. And at 146,000-square-feet of exhibit floor, the commercial display at this year's event was 40% larger than even the American Wind Energy Association's 2003 conference, a Texas-sized exhibition in Austin which was 50% bigger than seen the previous year in Portland, Oregon. These are growth rates an industry can only hope to sustain.
Beyond the pronounced international flare, with displays from European governments and investors, the make-up of exhibitors highlighted what everyone in the wind industry already knows: it takes more than big turbine manufacturers, big developers and big owners to make an industry. Project developers, biologists and attorneys, monitoring and evaluation experts, installers and manufacturers of turbine blades, brakes, gears, wires, switches and bolts were there, along with filtration system, oil, rope and lift vendors and transportation companies. Even the Ports of Vancouver and Longview, both in Washington, were promoting their facilities as stopover points for turbines imported from Canada into Northwestern states.
Also apparent was that not all the people who own and work for these businesses are currently on the job because of the failure of the US Congress to extend the industry's production tax credit, bringing wind development in the country to a halt. Advanced Concrete Innovations, (ACI), a contractor that specialises in delivering cement and installing tower bases in remote locations, says its business has shrunk to six people from the 40 it employed last year at this time. It plans to get through the year by "pulling from its reserves and selling unneeded assets," says Jeff Flood of ACI. Other businesses with an international base were saying, "Thank God there's Europe."