WASHINGTON—In recent years wind power emerged as a mainstream energy source, providing 35 percent of all new electric generating capacity during the last five years. In the process, the industry grew hungry for top talent that could help fuel the growth. Adding to the challenge is the reality that the energy sector as a whole historically has been male dominated. Thus, a massive talent pool—i.e., women who have chosen careers in other industries—has been largely left untapped.
One group is out to counter that trend, at least for the wind power industry. Women of Wind Energy(WoWE), the subject of the latest episode of WindTV, promotes the education, professional development, and advancement of women within the industry. In doing so, it seeks to achieve a strong, diversified workforce and support a robust renewable energy economy.
"Since WoWE's formation in 2005, women around the country have engaged WoWE by taking advantage of the programs and opportunities to connect with other like-minded women and men. As WoWE grows in membership and local chapter creation, so does the impact and momentum to move forward. We don't intend on slowing down," said WoWE Executive Director Kristen Graf.
WoWE takes an innovative approach to moving forward. A mentoring program, for example, links wind energy professionals with those seeking career advice and guidance. (More information on the mentoring program is available on WoWE's website.) The organization also offers the opportunity—called the Rudd Mayer Memorial Fellowship—for women interested in wind power to attend one of the biggest educational programs within the industry: the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place this year in Atlanta, June 3-6. (For more information on WINDPOWER, go to www.windpowerexpo.org.) The fellowship honors wind industry pioneer Rudd Mayer of Boulder, Colo., who passed away in 2002. Also, WoWE hosts a Leadership Forum that brings together women from different sectors of the industry and from different levels in their career for one day to discuss industry trends and paths towards women's advancement.
Among WoWE's members is AWEA CEO Denise Bode, a nationally recognized policy expert and 30-year veteran of the energy sector who served for 10 years on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
"There were a lot of us who were sort of pioneers in the energy field, and that's part of why Women of Wind Energy is so important," Bode explains in the WindTV segment. "They have a mentoring program in which those of us who have succeeded can help others [coming up] behind us." Such initiatives, she notes, allow for the continued growth in opportunities for women in wind energy.
That's great news for the wind energy industry, with its hunger for the kind of talent that has made it the mainstream energy source it is today. Now employing 75,000 people in the U.S., wind power has become a true job generator, possessing the potential to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, according to a recent study.
But that job growth may never happen, and in fact the already-existing jobs are in jeopardy. The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power's primary policy driver, is set to expire at the end of the year, and already the supply chain is feeling the effects of the uncertainty. The previously mentioned study found that while extending the PTC will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, an expiration will cause 37,000 job losses.
"The wind industry has served America well by generating clean, affordable, homegrown energy and creating tens of thousands of jobs," said Bode. "Now it's time for Congress to do its part and pass an extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy."
WindTV is a showcase of video profiles of Americans whose lives have been positively impacted by the wind energy industry. The site, located at www.awea.org/windtv, features a different video profile each week.
To hear more about Women of Wind Energy, go to WindTV. For more information on WINDPOWER 2012, go to www.windpowerexpo.org.