The recently concluded WINDPOWER 2017 Conference & Exhibition in Anaheim, Calif., proved notable on several fronts. While attendance was down considerably when compared with previous industry conferences, one quickly got the sense that developers, owners and operators, and suppliers were trying to capitalize on the remaining three-year window of opportunity before the production tax credit (PTC) is permanently phased out.
Over the course of three days, several themes began to emerge during the proceedings, including the following:
A renewed operations and maintenance focus. Navigant Consulting estimates that nearly 17 GW of wind turbines will come off their warranty in the next two years – or about 20% of the total wind turbines in operation. That total will create plenty of near-term opportunities for service providers.
Safe harboring. The buzz on the exhibit floor centered on the safe harboring of PTC-eligible wind turbines. In fact, some turbine makers, such as Suzlon, have stockpiled 2016 turbine equipment and have formed quasi-development arms as a result. This trend is worth watching. And some groups are getting ultra creative in their financing packages.
Department of Energy (DOE) study. Several WINDPOWER attendees were talking about the recent grid study ordered by DOE Secretary Rick Perry. The study attempts to examine federal subsidies that incent wind and solar energy and the way wholesale markets value different energy sources. The study, which is being praised by fossil fuel interests, is expected to hit in the next month. For more on the DOE study and what it means for wind, read “The Industry Anxiously Awaits DOE Study On Renewables And Baseload” [adleft zone=’190′].
Corporate concerns. Non-utility buyers, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, remain hungry for wind power. That’s the good news. However, look for the corporate segment to ease, particularly as the more experienced buyers seek to shift risk and prepare for tax reform. As the wind industry cozies up to corporate buyers, tax reform could be a real wild card going forward.
Notably, in nearly every conversation had, attendees (particularly Europeans) made some passing remark about the Trump presidency – typically in terms punctuated by astonishment and bewilderment. And that was before the president pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate accord.
Overall, the feel of the conference was upbeat. And that steep cliff occurring after the PTC expires in 2020? Thanks to a laser-like focus on technology advances and lowering costs, the anticipated drop-off is not as dire as once envisioned. What were your thoughts regarding WINDPOWER? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.