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WPA Hosts Six Regional Meetings to Garner Stakeholder Feedback on Wind Deployment Barriers: A Wind Powering America Success Story

May 9, 2011

With its 10th Annual All-States Summit approaching, Wind Powering America (WPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Wind and Water Power Program hosted six regional meetings in March at strategic locations around the country. The purpose of the meetings was to allow industry and state government representatives, non-profit organizations, and other interested stakeholders to participate in identifying and prioritizing persistent deployment barriers while highlighting successful approaches to address the challenges identified.

Ian Baring-Gould, senior engineer and WPA's national technical director, recognizes that the meetings are an essential step in addressing deployment barriers and believes that they are key elements to achieving the 20% penetration scenario.

"The regional meetings allowed us to gather numerous viewpoints, but not only viewpoints. It's the knowledge that accompanies them. This is critical in addressing current issues," Baring-Gould said.

Although the All-States Summit gathers these same parties in one room, the large number of attendees and the day's scheduled events are not conducive to in-depth conversations about barriers and the current status of wind energy. The smaller, more intimate environment provided by the regional format allowed for expanded dialogue among parties who share similar challenges and interests.

Dan McGuire, Nebraska Wind for Schools facilitator and attendee of the Great Plains Regional Meeting, also believes that the meetings are an important step in establishing the proper channels for states to communicate with each other and with DOE/NREL about the current market challenges.

"WPA's regional meetings were very useful for us to get together and compare notes from various states. Given that Nebraska is also part of the Southwest Power Pool now, which is a relatively new development over the past year, we have various issues that we can work together on. Transmission is one of those. It was very good to compare notes with all the state representatives who attended that meeting," McGuire said.

According to McGuire, another barrier discussed at the Great Plains Regional Meetings and considered a top issue for the future is policy.

"When you're looking at barriers, you inevitably talk about policy, whether that is federal policy, transmission policy, or policies within your own state or region. Obviously, one of the issues that always comes up, at least in my years of experience with wind energy, is subsidies and incentives for other energy sources. When you compare them, wind energy receives a very minor amount of incentives compared to other fuel types. I think that as we move toward a 20% vision for wind energy down the road, we have to continue to focus on keeping those incentives going and working with the policy makers at the state and federal levels to do that," McGuire said.

Baring-Gould identified public acceptance as an additional common regional barrier.

"There are a host of national issues, and I think the six regional meetings really highlighted this. Although social acceptance was not the top priority when the people in the regions ranked the issues, it was high on the list. When you aggregate that across the whole nation, social acceptance was the most important thing according to the meeting attendees, who are a subset of the wind industry and wind advocacy groups in each of the states," Baring-Gould said. Although barriers ranked differently in different regions, the top eight barriers are:

  • Public and environmental organizations' acceptance, education, and understanding of wind deployment impacts
  • Lack of state markets motivating expanded wind deployment
  • Limited transmission
  • Complex and locally focused planning, permitting, ordinances, and development process
  • Barriers to community and distributed wind, including financing and integration
  • Funding for stakeholder engagement support
  • Utility wind integration
  • Federal permitting and access to federal lands.

McGuire believes that the groundwork has been laid to overcome many of the barriers in the future.

"I think the main thing is that WPA and the DOE have provided the infrastructure for public policy and outreach and the tools to continue to inform and make the public aware of the value, the opportunity, and the potential of wind energy for the future in the United States," McGuire said.

Barriers identified at the regional meetings were used to develop the agenda for the 10th Annual All-States Summit (to be held in Anaheim on May 26) and to help prioritize future WPA activities.

In addition to the Great Plains meeting in Nebraska, regional meetings were also held in Las Vegas, Nevada; Arlington, Virginia; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Boston, Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington to represent the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Northeast, and Northwest respectively. WPA expects to continue to hold regional meetings as one of the means to support the expanded appropriate deployment of wind technologies into the next decade.

All wind stakeholders could not attend the meetings, so WPA is producing draft reports of each event that will be available for general comment before final reports are released later in the year. Draft reports will be posted as they become available.

—Julie Jones