Community wind working group
The AWEA Community Wind Working Group (CWWG) serves as a forum to discuss policies and education enhancing the value of wind energy development to local communities.
The CWWG raises awareness of AWEA’s committee work to community wind developers, seeks common definition of the industry segment to promote greater understanding and coordination and plans to consider new AWEA policy agenda items to benefit community wind, including nationwide interpretation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 20 MW rule and a streamlined permitting process for community wind.
Community Wind Steering Committee
Peggy Beltrone is President of Exergy Integrated Systems (EIS), the technology concepts and commercialization arm of the Exergy group of companies. Under Beltrone's direction, the company is currently developing a mid-sized wind turbine ideal for the community wind market. Additionally, as a member of its executive team, Beltrone works across the growing portfolio of renewable energy projects within Exergy Development Group. She is coordinating the development of two community wind projects.
Prior to joining Exergy in 2010 Beltrone served 16-years as a Cascade County Commissioner in Great Falls, Montana. While a Commissioner, she started the county’s award-winning Wind Energy Marketing program. She continues her renewable energy advocacy on the 25x25 national steering committee and as a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Advisory Committee.
Lisa M. Daniels, Executive Director and founder of Windustry, has been providing wind energy information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, elected officials, rural utilities and other interested groups since 1997. Currently, Lisa leads Windustry in contracts with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Agriculture and in the past with National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the Wind Powering America initiative. Nationally, Lisa serves on the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Community Wind Working Group Steering Committee. Lisa is also a founding member and on the Board of Directors for Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). She was recognized in 2004 by the US Dept of Energy Wind Powering America program, with the Chicago Regional Office Wind Advocacy Award for regional leadership, creativity, and commitment to wind energy development, and honored again in 2005 for her work with Wind Powering America’s Agriculture Outreach Team. Lisa received a B.S. in Business Management from Bentley College in Waltham, Mass. She loves to canoe and kayak, and enjoys horseback riding and Nordic skiing with her family.
Larry Flowers is currently the Deputy Director of Community and Distributed Wind for the American Wind Energy Association where he works with industry, government and NGO’s to increase the role of distributed and community wind resources in the nation’s energy portfolio through policy, advocacy, education and outreach. Prior to AWEA, he spent 30 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the last 20 at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colo. As National Technical Director of Wind Powering America, he led an interdisciplinary team that established 35 state wind working groups, created 11 state Wind for Schools programs, developed high resolution wind resource maps for all windy US states, and established a wind-water-nexus initiative. Prior to WPA, he led programs and projects in international village power, hybrid energy systems, building sciences, thermal systems, and industrial applications. Mr. Flowers has degrees in metallurgical engineering and materials science from Lehigh University and an executive MBA from the University of Denver.
Dan Juhl is the Chairman and CEO of Juhl Wind, Inc., a publicly traded company active in the renewable energy business. Mr. Juhl has pioneered renewable energy technologies for over 35 years, and has been involved in every aspect of the technology including R&D, design, manufacturing, development, installation, and O&M. He has also been instrumental in helping to form public policy by working with legislators and regulators on the workings and benefits of utilizing renewables in the energy mix. He is considered to be one of the nations leading experts on wind energy technology, distributed generation and community-owned renewable generation.
Brett Pingree serves as Manager for the Energy Management Systems business unit for Dynapower Company, the global leader in power conversion technologies. In this current role, Mr. Pingree is focused on supplying the electricity storage market with power electronics and control technologies used to manage the integration of energy storage technologies and renewable energy sources into the grid.
Mr. Pingree previously worked for Northern Power Systems for eight years successfully commercializing their 100 kW permanent-magnet direct-drive wind turbine, the Northern Power 100. His most recent position was as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Before that he held various positions such as Channel Development Manager, Business Development Manager, and Wind Business Manager. Brett is a long-serving member of AWEA’s Small Wind Committee and currently serves as chair of AWEA’s Distributed Wind Committee. Brett also serves as a founder and member of AWEA’s Community Wind Steering Committee. Brett is a founding member and a Board of Director for the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) and spent over a year as chair of the DWEA state policy committee.
Kevin Schulte is the Chief Executive Officer and cofounder of Sustainable Energy Developments. Under Kevin’s leadership, SED has reached its 2010 goal of 6.6 MW of renewable wind energy production for its clients in the Northeastern United States. At SED, Kevin concentrates chiefly on designing economically viable decentralized wind turbine installations through regulatory analyses and advancement, innovative financial modeling, public education and wind turbine selection. Kevin served as Chair of AWEA’s Community Wind Steering Committee in 2011. He also helped found the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) that serves the distributed wind industry as a lobbying and educational group.
In 2007, Aaron Severn joined the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), where he currently works as the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs. During his tenure at AWEA, Aaron helped secure an extension of the PTC and the creation and extension of the 1603 Treasury Program. He also advocated for the creation of the investment tax credit for small wind systems that is in place through 2016 and led the effort to secure funding for wind industry research and development priorities as part of the Department of Energy Wind Program budget and the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. Prior to joining AWEA, Aaron worked as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). He advised the Senator on energy, environmental and public lands issues. Prior to working as a congressional staffer, Aaron worked as a research assistant at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan energy and environmental think tank in D.C. Aaron holds a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Grinnell College.
Jacob Susman has been building businesses, investing, and developing projects in renewable energy since 1999. Jacob has led OwnEnergy since its inception, including recruiting and managing its industry-leading team, raising capital, establishing a nationwide brand, sourcing new business, developing projects and generating revenue. He serves on the board of directors of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as well as the Leadership Council of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). In 2010, Jacob was named to Crains New York’s ’40 Under 40’.
Before founding OwnEnergy, he was a founding member of Goldman Sachs' Alternative Energy Investing group, where he was involved in Goldman's investment in Horizon Wind Energy and co-led a portfolio financing that was named Project Finance’s N.A. Renewable Energy Deal of the Year. Prior to that, he served as Project Manager for the AES Corporation, working on a team that developed one of the largest power plants in Spain—named European IPP of the Year by Euromoney. Jacob also led AES’s efforts to develop a Spanish renewable energy business, which included negotiation of more than 1,000 MW of wind energy investment opportunities.
Jacob holds an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife, Jodi, and two daughters in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Community Wind Leader Interview:
Jacob Susman - CEO, OwnEnergy
Q: Tell us about your life leading up to the OwnEnergy era.
I think my desire to become an entrepreneur started when I was a kid. My dad had a services business, and I remember him spending time at the kitchen table with CEOs who were running small and midsize businesses. I wanted to be an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. Attending the University of Colorado and graduating in 1996 piqued my interest in all things environmental and outdoors. I took a job in Spain for three years with AES Corporation, which at the time was a conventional power company. But our team in Spain focused on renewables, developing renewable projects and figuring out how to finance them. I fell in love with the sector and went back to school for my MBA at Wharton in 2002.
I conceived of the idea of OwnEnergy while working at AES and then submitted that idea to a business plan competition at Wharton. It was selected as a finalist, and I was asked to join Wharton's business incubator. Then in 2004 I received an offer from Goldman Sachs to join its energy group, as part of the team that invested in Zilkha Renewable Energy in 2005. Kudos go to the founding team at Zilkha for everything they did to build a great business.
Zilkha became Horizon Wind Energy. Goldman did some interesting things alongside the Horizon management team and took wind to the next level in the U.S. It was a great learning experience. I was involved with just about anything that Horizon needed Goldman to do to grow the Horizon business.
During that time, my business plan was on the shelf, waiting for the right time to launch. I realized that if I was ever going to launch my own renewable energy business, the time was now. I also received a gentle nudge from my wife, who said, "Are you going to do it or not?" I left Goldman in 2007 and took the majority of my family's modest savings and plowed it into the business. I raised some angel capital, hired a team, and added local partners. OwnEnergy was officially founded in July 2007.
Q: What elements of your business plan caught the attention of the Wharton folks who were evaluating different projects?
Let's go back to Spain in 2000, with a big independent power company setting up gas plants with no interest in renewables. All of these entrepreneurs were operating in areas of Spain that make sense for wind development. In the early stages, projects don't require huge amounts of capital, so the locals have advanced projects to a reasonable development stage. They were coming to AES at the stage when it's time to plunk down real capital and purchase turbines. The amount of capital required is ramping up, and the need for expertise is ramping up. The locals have done an excellent job on the ground work, and now they need an energy company partner. It occurred to me that many great projects are left undeveloped while at the same time the energy companies have capital. My a-ha moment: Bridge the divide between the two. Set up a platform that acknowledges and respects, champions and encourages local entrepreneurs who need a company to finish the project.
There was a lot of talk in the business world at that point about more entrepreneurial approaches, more localized approaches to businesses. OwnEnergy is a wind development franchising business, setting up tools for locals in areas of the country with rich wind resources, helping them to develop their own energy projects.
Q: Tell us about starting OwnEnergy.
We had start-up challenges. During the first year, you couldn't get your hands on a turbine. Every site in America was thought to be fair game. European utilities were coming in. It was a go-go time. Our market segment was midsize projects, average size 50 megawatts. About one-third or one-quarter the size of big wind. That was our niche. The challenge was, could you get good people, get good turbines, and run fast enough to catch the acquisition wave?
One year into building the business, all that changed after the credit meltdown in the middle of 2008. The lifeline went dry. We were facing very scary and difficult times. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Fortunately we did not have to lay anyone off. A smart investor said, "I will take the long view on wind and this management team." The markets will take some time to recover, but the investor will get a good return in the next few years.
Q: How has the business model changed?
Another component of go-go markets is readily available, low-cost capital for project construction. That was the type of environment in which we operated. With utilities a long ways off from hitting RPS targets and with access to low-cost capital, we could return capital to the local community and developer and provide a nice long-term ownership stake in project. Fast forward to today: Most RPS targets have been met and incentives for community wind have been nearly eliminated, so the number of power contracts has been reduced and the price of those contracts is reduced even further. Cheap financing does not exist now. The cost of tax equity is high, and it's scarce. Instead of having the opportunity to finance projects and have capital to spare, we turned to developing a project and selling at the end of development while keeping a long-term interest for us and local partners. Eventually we'll go back to a develop-and-own model as RPS targets step up and financing markets improve.
Q: Can you clarify the distinction between your model and local participation? How is local participation different or the same compared to the conventional community wind model?
We're actively developing 25 projects in concert with local partners. We have a joint venture partner who has invested some of its own capital and has an ownership stake in the project. Land rights, permits, right to connect to the grid — all assets are part owned by the local partner. We end up with a local partner who does a ton of local development work on the ground, managing community relations, finding a customer for the power generated from projects, whatever it takes. Our local partner is part of the team.
The difference between our model and the other financial model is utilizing some form of a flip model or not happening. I think that either because incentives aren't as strong now or because the 1603 grant is going away, the guys who used to do those deals, like John Deere, they're not doing them anymore. You have to adapt for the times. These deals are not making themselves readily apparent.
Q: Why did you join AWEA's board as the community wind representative?
We saw an opportunity to get industry more tethered to communities. Going into new areas demonstrated that these are projects that communities want to like and support and champion. Our goals were to gain greater acceptance, have the wind industry take community wind a lot more seriously and make it a bigger focus. I enjoy working with my colleagues in the community wind working group, and I intend to champion community wind as an important part of our business for as long as I can. We want to increase membership in the community wind movement and never miss an opportunity to remind the AWEA board that community wind is part of the long-term interest of the wind industry.
Q: What are the big challenges facing community wind in the next few years?
First, getting a rather diverse group of advocates and champions to coalesce around a definition of what community wind is so that we can use it as a policy plank. Getting AWEA to support our policy position and champion it. Getting Congress to accept our proposal. We need to move on and get community wind passed into law. We'll be working hard on it.
For those who define community wind around long-term project ownership, we'll continue until we get financing at the right price with the least amount of complexity. We're not there from a policy perspective. Minnesota did away with community wind legislation. Montana and some others haven't done a lot to enforce community wind legislation. We need continuing state policy to favor community wind and the benefits it provides, project financing conditions to keep a high amount of ownership local.
We also need to define community wind more broadly, as smaller projects with local ownership, with members of the local community having a stake and a say in the project. If we hold too dearly to a narrow definition, we miss opportunities to welcome, for example, municipal utilities and corporations that want wind in their backyard. We should welcome them with open arms.
Q: How can the community wind working group help move the community wind agenda forward?
I think by increasing the communication and collaboration among us, tracking who's who, who's where, what everyone is doing. It's not like big wind companies, in which fewer than 10 make up half of installed capacity. The top five owner-operators own 60 percent of generation. Talk to these five companies, you get answers quickly. In community wind, we're spread across multiple states, and it's hard to keep track of what's happening. So we're working to increase communication among us. I worry that there's not enough going on with colleagues in community wind groups. I would like to see more people make the effort. Attend an AWEA event, get to know the staff, get on panels, get the message out about what your company is doing. I'd like to see more of my colleagues on the AWEA scene. I think that they'll be happy that they made the effort.
The community wind voice must be heard by the industry. If it's not, it will be a missed opportunity to band together and make the industry grow.
Q: How can social media help the community wind sector?
We use Twitter, Salesforce, Facebook, e-mail, and LinkedIn to update one another on what we're doing, stuff we see that's interesting, pieces of legislation. In the absence of being able to talk to someone over the water cooler, we can shoot them a note on LinkedIn or post on Twitter. The more we can leverage social media to make connections, the more robust we can be within industry.
Q: Any last words?
The long-term trends are in community wind's favor. It's getting harder to do larger-scale projects because of transmission. There's more pushback on projects perceived to be pushing their way into communities. More and more customers are coming to the table with smaller appetites. It's useful to be a smaller project generating power closer to where it's going to be used. Then there's the NIMBY piece: having local partners as part of development is one of the beautiful things about community wind, and having local owners results in fewer NIMBY issues than large-scale projects. We get to work with customers who are underserved by big wind. Even technology is in our favor: you can develop projects in lower-wind-speed areas, closer to loads and people. Time is on our side. Get that community wind act passed.
2012 AWEA Member Awards
Outstanding Achievement in Distributed Wind Advocacy: Kevin Schulte (Sustainable Energy Development)
Kevin Schulte, SED, and Larry Flowers, AWEA, following the 2012 AWEA Member Awards ceremony at the Fall Symposium.
Kevin is a tireless and dedicated contributor to the distributed wind industry who deserves a lot of recognition for the continued energy and knowledge that he brings to improving the distributed wind marketplace. He is the founder of Sustainable Energy Developments, Inc., a company that quickly became, for a time, the largest installer of Bergey turbines. He then moved on to larger turbines, becoming was the first major installer of Northern Power System's NPS100 turbines in the lower 48. He is one of the largest behind-the-meter installers in Massachusetts and New York, and he continues to grow his small business despite the economic conditions. Kevin leads from the front; despite a small business budget, he is always flying to DC or driving to New York and Massachusetts to drive policy and legislative efforts, speaking and moderating at conferences. He is the chair or co-chair of numerous committees while also running his business! Lastly, he was an early promoter and supporter of starting the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) and has contributed boundless energy to the organization. He is also long-time supporting member of AWEA and plays a key role in supporting the continuing bridge between the two organizations.
Paul Woodin, a pioneer of community wind power and active member of the AWEA Community Wind Working Group, passed away March 2, 2012. The following story ran in the March 9, 2012 edition of AWEA's Wind Energy Weekly publication:
Paul Woodin, community wind expert, passes
The community-wind segment of the wind power industry this week mourned the death of Paul Woodin, facilitator and advocate of community wind power and Vietnam veteran, who passed away on March 2 at the Oregon Veterans’ Home. He was 64.
Born in Illinois and raised in New York state, Woodin developed a base of knowledge applicable to wind energy by graduating from Florida Air Academy in 1965 and St. Louis University’s Parks College of Aeronautical Technology in 1972. It wasn’t until after stints at Lockheed in Burbank, Calif., and a Martin Marietta Aluminum plant in Goldendale, Wash., however, that Woodin found his wind power calling. When the aluminum plant closed, Woodin started his own business assisting community wind projects and most recently worked with the Community Renewable Energy Association of Oregon.
Woodin was heavily involved in working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in defending and implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA) in the Pacific Northwest. PURPA remains the prevailing federal policy enabling community wind projects to interconnect to utilities at avoided cost in the Western Interconnect. At the time of his death, he was active in advocating for PURPA reform to facilitate community wind project development.
AWEA Deputy Director for Distributed and Community Wind Larry Flowers, who attended the memorial service, said the event was filled with stories of Woodin’s accomplishments and victories on behalf of community wind in the Northwest. “But what touched me most,” said Flowers, “was the respect and love that this family expressed about a caring, involved, and nurturing dad and husband. Paul fought the good fight, with determination and commitment, a role model for all of us.”
The playing of “Taps,” as well as a presentation-of-the-flag ceremony, provided “the proper tribute of a decorated Vietnam veteran,” said Flowers.
Woodin is survived by his wife Katie Woodin, daughter Erica Woodin, son John, sister Roberta Cabot and grandson Jonah Frank.