D. Ray Tuttle
Dolan Media Newswires
Oklahoma City — The business of converting wind into a useful form of energy continues to grow as manufacturers around the world look to establish a foothold in the mushrooming U.S. market.
Since the early 1990s, wind energy technology has seen substantial growth in the U.S. utility and residential markets. The U.S. has added more wind energy to its grid than any other country.
The nation’s emerging midsize wind turbine market recently attracted 110 wind turbine designers, manufacturers, suppliers and operators from across the country to Northeastern State University at Broken Arrow.
“The market potential is huge, said Ed Weston, director of the Great Lakes Wind Network. The Broken Arrow workshop was sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Great Lakes Wind Network.
“Growth in the wind market is expected to top 20 percent for the next few years and remain at double-digit rates over the next 20 years,” Weston said.
Company officials discussed the market opportunities, the anatomy of a turbine, how companies get started and tips on what is needed to succeed in the market.
Wind energy costs a fifth of what it did in the 1980s, said Trudy Forsyth, a senior project leader of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“This is a cutting-edge development because, for us in the Midwest, we have a wonderful wind resource,” she said.
The reason the midsize market has not grown as quickly is because manufacturers are following the European model, Forsyth said.
“The problem is that as the wind market has grown, people are looking for bigger and bigger machines. We have followed the Europeans down the multimegawatt path,” Forsyth said. “Because the larger the machine, the cheaper the per-kilowatt-hour costs are.”
Europeans have less room to work with, so they can only install large machines, she said.
“If they put up a turbine, they will put up as big a turbine as they can get,” Forsyth said.
For U.S. manufacturers, the potential is big in the midsize market because only a fraction of the parts that go into the turbines are made in the U.S. Midsize turbines produce between 100 kilowatts and 1 megawatt of electricity.
“The midsize market, which is projected to be 220 gigawatts and more than six times the currently installed wind power capacity, represents an enormous growth opportunity,” Weston said.