Excerpted from remarks by Chris Brown, President of Vestas Americas and the new Chair of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) on May 24th at AWEA's annual WINDPOWER conference in New Orleans.
In the past, progress has always been about mastering the physical world. The plow modernized agriculture, aqueducts enabled urbanization, and steam power created the industrial revolution.
Sustainability is the next chapter in human progress, and the key is economic renewable energy technology. The paradigm shift towards sustainability is moving the energy industry from resource constrained to technology enabled, from destructive to creative and from scarcity to abundance.
Historically, the energy industry has been focused on extracting scarce resources, getting them out of the ground, refining them and shipping them to energy markets.
Today, with renewable energy, our industry focus is on how to use technology to harvest the wind, and the sun, in ways that are even smarter and more economical, so it's the obvious choice.
Technology innovation makes renewables economic and finite resources obsolete. These wind and solar solutions are achievable near term. They're simply about driving down cost. The path to achieving sustainability, and human progress, relies on all of us becoming energy analysts, who understand the levers driving energy cost and use them to our advantage.
We have just begun this journey, and wind is winning. We are winning because we are focusing on the right metrics - dollars per megawatt-hour. We have driven down clean energy costs with technology advancements - longer rotors, taller towers, advanced controls and product reliability.
We have further reduced costs by scaling installations - 42 GW over the last 5 years. Investor appetite has grown, also lowering the cost of capital. As a result, the real cost of wind power in the US has dropped by more than 60 percent.
In 2015, wind energy had a record number of installations, and it was the #1 source of new US electric capacity. Google, Amazon and Facebook made sustainability commitments to 100 percent renewable energy and contracted for 2 GW of wind power. Despite the court drama around the Clean Power Plan, states and utilities are still buying simply because it's economic.
Wind's time is now, and we need to take advantage of it. We need to think bigger. Here's my goal for the industry. I believe in our lifetime, that the US can be 80 percent powered by renewables - yes, I said 80 percent. It is time for wind power to claim its share of the market. It is time to take on the challengers and demonstrate why wind energy should be the #1 choice.
The question now is not if, but how.
To build a bridge to that future, we will need to keep lowering the cost of wind energy to beat solar and natural gas. And we have a solution. That solution is Generation Wind.
With this new generation of talented young leaders, wind power will cross the bridge to a clean energy future, and we will arrive on the right side of history, where energy is cleaner, cheaper and abundant.
What will that future look like? A broad renewable energy coalition - including wind, solar and storage - working together. A sustainable industry driven by free-market forces, with regional market coordination and just-in-time transmission.
The right side of history is a world that is cleaner, cheaper and smarter.
To get there, we need a Generation Wind that takes a problem-solving mindset and doesn't let politics get in the way of what is good for the states and for America, good for business and for consumers. A generation that does a better job than mine at extending the arc of human progress.
I'm ready to build this bridge, and I believe you are too.
Chris Brown is President of Vestas-American Wind Technology, Vestas' North American business unit, and the new Chairman for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)