The American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition is typically an exercise in time management. With an exhibit hall brimming with vendors and a jam-packed education lineup, even the most ambitious wind energy attendee can be hard-pressed to get to everything.
However, conference organizers set out to make WINDPOWER more manageable this year, explains Jana Adams, AWEA’s senior vice president of member value and experience.
“We’ve put everything in one place,” she says. This means the exhibit hall and the educational sessions are situated in one contiguous space in New Orleans’ cavernous Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The educational sessions – which range from traditional panel discussions to 10- to 15-minute presentations – will emanate from five so-called theaters or stations dealing in technology, operations, project development, and market expansion, as well as thought leadership. To prevent distraction and noise, Plexiglas walls will shield the stations from the buzz of the main show floor.
Although the convention center features one square mile of floor space, WINDPOWER 2016 will not test the building’s capacity. Still, the conference will feature more than 100,000 square feet for exhibitors and 32,000 square feet of educational space, as well as nearly a full exhibit hall for the Collegiate Wind Competition.
In addition to this year’s unique setup, the theme of WINDPOWER will also be slightly different from those of recent years. With the long-term extension of the production tax credit squared away, Adams explains, there is no urgent need to address expiring federal policy – a recurring theme of recent annual conferences. This year, she says, the conference is all about access.
“With stable policy footing, there is much more of a focus on the future of the industry,” notes Adams, emphasizing the theme of the conference, “Generation Wind.”
For example, the Emerging Leaders Program provides attendees an opportunity to connect with up-and-coming leaders.
She explains that today’s generation is more attuned to the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy than ever before: Wind energy has a clear path to generate 20% U.S. wind energy by 2030 and will be a major solution as states implement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
“We have an incredible opportunity to take our industry to the next level, and WINDPOWER 2016 is where that happens,” says Adams.
Lastly, as further evidence that conference organizers are changing the tone of the annual conference, Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold will moderate the wind energy leaders panel through a discussion of technological advancement, the levelized cost of energy and the future of U.S. manufacturing.
In addition, some WINDPOWER mainstays returning as conference organizers are bringing back the Kid Wind Challenge and the annual Women of Wind Energy luncheon.
WINDPOWER 2016 will run May 23-26.