Two thoughts on AWEA Chicago 2009

This blogger attended the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual event in Chicago. Some 20,000 people reportedly attended. Over 1000 exhibitors were pitching a solution for every (and I mean every) element of the wind power equation. Truly an impressive sight.

I am left with two thoughts. First is a concern whether the extraordinary enthusiasm is part of a growing bubble that inevitably will burst or, rather,  illustrative of an authentic and emerging attitudinal shift, the end result of which would make renewables in general and wind in particular part of the mainstream vernacular. As a veteran of two bursting bubbles (telecom and mortgage lending) I feel cautious.

Second is in regard to that potential paradigmatic shift. One panel of leading industry executives (Vic Abate-GE, Ditlev Engel-Vestas, Declan Flanagan- E.On, Michael Polsky-Invenergy LLC and even Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark-now of Emergya Wind Technologies) stressed that the U.S. needs policy changes to reach goals (e.g., 20 percent wind by 2030) commonly discussed in the industry. That panel was followed by an interview of Boone Pickens.

While Mr. Pickens certainly has his millions of dollars, he nevertheless possesses a down home appeal, which has helped his transformational natural gas/wind energy Pickens Plan to attract millions of adherents. If wind is to become a power generation source adopted by the mainstream, the industry will need more like Mr. Pickens – a non-preacher who can explain its appeal in readily understandable terms.

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