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For success at state level, wind advocates can never rest

Let's keep working to keep growing wind power.
For success at state level, wind advocates can never rest

“We can go to 50 percent and beyond!” said California ISO chief Steve Berberich as he wrapped up a Q&A on the big stage here at WINDPOWER 2016.

He meant his state’s pace-setting target of 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.

Oregon and Maryland increased their targets too. A string of others could be next – unless attacks on wind energy prevail in legislatures and utility commissions from coast-to-coast.

Increasing state demand is among our top strategic imperatives as an industry. I rank it with lowering wind’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE); overcoming implementation challenges; improving O&M and safety; and keeping wind’s brand strong.

One of the challenges we face is building the transmission we need to carry wind-generated electricity to where it’s most needed across state borders. This week we recognized three people who are helping us construct this transmission: Mike Sloan of Virtus Energy, Beth Soholt of Wind on the Wires, and Steve Gaw of the Wind Coalition.

Transmission award

Congratulations to the Excellence in Transmission Advocacy award recipients.

Federal policies such as the Production Tax Credit help create the market for our turbines. State policies can determine where they do and don’t get built.

Increasing state demand depends on so many players working together. AWEA’s state policy team and member companies constantly team up with nine groups we’ve formally designated as our regional partners. Together we mobilize supporters at all levels; call on local allies; employ contractors; recruit champions; host public events; and more.

Collaboration is the only way we can do this hard and essential work. We must have both a strong association and strong regional partners to promote wind to thousands of elected officials, utility executives, regulators, and grid operators, and not constantly reinvent the wheel.

Wind’s state-level advocates are busy right now. But then, we’re always busy.

A lot of people have joined the fight to roll back a punitive setback requirement that made it all but impossible to site a wind farm in Ohio. We also need to restore Ohio’s renewable standard after a two-year freeze.

Working with the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, we’re sounding the alarm over a new anti-wind bill in North Carolina. It unrealistically proposes a 1-mile setback and turbine sound limits of 35 decibels at the property line; it would give the nearest military commanding officer say on a project’s location. Legislators in New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Texas are also looking at misguided sound and setbacks bills.

Oklahoma faces short-sighted, deep-pocketed attempts to limit wind energy, even though it has more wind jobs than all but three other states. Wind and natural gas each have unique advantages to contribute to the power grid. We’re working with the Wind Coalition to get that message out.

On transmission issues, Wind on the Wires offers expertise on bridging the “seams” between regional power grids for consumers’ benefit. The Interwest Energy Alliance is pursuing new opportunities to expand renewable demand in Colorado and Nevada, among other states.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I know we can double American wind power in five years. I also know that will only happen if our mutual efforts keep succeeding at the state level.

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Tom Kiernan began as CEO of the American Wind Energy Association in May, 2013. Prior to joining AWEA, Tom was President of the National Parks Conservation Association for 15 years growing it from 8 to 22 offices and overseeing a successful $125 million capital campaign. Previous positions include Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation where he assisted in leading the implementation of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, President of the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, and a senior consultant with Arthur Andersen & Co. Tom is a native of Arlington, Va., has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in Environmental Computer Modeling, and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

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