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Jason Allen talks about the advancers of wind energy and why he would like to see stability in federal tax credits.


After the ribbon was sliced for the Panorama Wind Farm, Big Pivots talked a few minutes with Jason Allen, chief executive of Leeward Renewable Energy.


Transmission & renewables:

The grid that’s out there right now does not support rapid growth. That is one place where I see Colorado standing out. They are being much more progressive in new transmission, pursuing new infrastructure. The Xcels and the Tri-States putting in transmission will enable more renewable growth. I do see Colorado standing out where some other states are moving more slowly.


Loss of federal tax credits

The tax incentives are great, but we as a developer need stability. If they’re going to be there, great, but let us know what they are. If they’re not, that’s great, too, because renewable technology can compete head-to-head with whatever’s out there. This constant churn is distracting and its hurts the industry. I’m much more supportive of just a stable landscape, whatever it is, with or without tax incentives.


How newer technology could benefit Colorado wind development

There are continual break-throughs in that space. When I first started in wind 10 years ago, the rumor was we’d never get above 2 megawatt machines onshore. They were too heavy, too big, and couldn’t be transported. To go bigger, it was going to be offshore.

The manufacturers have found ways around all of that. We bring the components to sites in smaller pieces. They’re now doing blades in two pieces. We assemble them. The technology continues to get better and better. The onshore turbines keep getting larger and larger.

Now they’re talking about five and six -megawatt onshore turbines. The tower heights continue to get higher. The rotor diameters get much larger, and that makes the units much more efficient. They can operate in lower wind regimes where they’ve never been able to operate before. And we get far more power out of those turbines than we ever used to.

For example, we have a site in Illinois that was built in 2003. They had 850 kilowatt turbines. We took down the 58 turbines, replaced them with 29 turbines, and they produce three times as much energy. That’s technology advancement in fewer than 15 years.


Repowering Leeward’s Colorado sites

Not here—yet. These are newer sites. The Cedar Creek site that’s here (completed in 2007) have one-megawatt turbines that I can see as likely candidates for repowering to three, four year and even larger machines during the next five to six years.

Three megawatts plus by 2023-2024

The new projects in Colorado during the next few years, most of them are three megawatts plus. Anything built in 2023 or 2024 is likely to be three megawatts plus. If you look at a couple more years beyond that, the equipment manufacturers are talking about five or six megawatts.

Allen Best
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