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In Part 1 of our “Blade runners” series this week, we looked behind the scenes at the Newton, Iowa, factory where some of GE’s wind turbine blades are manufactured. Today, we’re on the road with one of the giants — which stretches nearly half a football field long — as it snakes its way from Newton to Schenectady, N.Y., where it will go on permanent display at one of GE’s key plants. In the audio slideshow below, driver Chris Lewis with Landstar Ranger trucking (that’s Chris in the first shot) dials in from his stops along the more than 1,000-mile journey. A tight squeeze at a railroad bridge, motorists hanging out of their windows with video-cams in hand, and getting quizzed about wind power at truck stops are all just part of a typical day when you’re cruising down I-80 with the wind (blade) at your back.
At the launch event for the blade road trip, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), had both highlighted the thousands of jobs that the wind industry brings to the U.S. and all of the wins that renewables bring in terms of clean energy and reduced dependence on foreign sources of oil.
One key element to laying the long-term foundation for a “green-collar” workforce and a domestic renewable energy manufacturing base is the strengthening of federal Renewable Electricity Standards — essentially the amount of renewable energy that power grids must use. Recently, John Krenicki, vice chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Energy, testified before Congress about the current RES in the U.S., noting that both Europe and China have publicly committed to strong, long-term renewable energy policies, with aggressive near-term goals.
For example, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive commits member nations to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. Conversely, in the U.S., the current RES proposals for 2012 call for anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation to be produced by renewables — which is essentially equal to or below the status quo. But with energy being a scale-driven business that has time horizons measured in decades and capital investments in billions, stronger standards are seen as a key component to the future of wind energy.
On its Web site, the American Wind Energy Association calls for “a national 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025 standard.” AWEA explains that “this policy would provide a long-term commitment to renewable energy in the U.S., giving businesses the certainty they need to invest in new wind energy manufacturing facilities, and to expand current ones — creating tens of thousands of new American jobs. This long-term policy would also put the U.S. on a path to achieving the significant carbon dioxide emission reductions desperately needed to protect the health of our planet.”
* Read John’s full testimony
* Read Part 1: “Blade runners: How 134-foot wind blades are born”
* Learn more about TPI Composites, which made the blade
* Read about the investment in TPI made by GE’s investment arm
* Watch a video of a GE turbine going on a mountain climb
* Learn technical details about GE’s wind turbines
* Learn more about the wind industry at the American Wind Energy Association