Texas is already king of the hill when it comes to turning wind into electricity, and for folks who work in the industry around the world, Dallas is the place to be for the next three days. There'll be 23,000 people here for the party at this year's Windpower Expo, where they'll get the latest on the young industry that's still rife with novel technologies and heavily influenced by the shifting whims of federal policy. Along the way they'll be entertained by the likes of George W. Bush, Elvis Costello and Jason Alexander, and PowerPoints packed with all the finest winking references to Bob Seger and Neil Young.
To get the crowd warmed up for the 400 speakers who'll take the podium this week, the expo kicked off Sunday morning with appearances by Mayor Tom Leppert and an enormous fiberglass wind turbine.
The turbine is stopping in Dallas along its month-long GE-sponsored "Capturing the Wind" tour across the country from its birthplace in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Along the way, it's been gathering signatures and fired-up "Go get 'em, wind" messages. Sunday morning, Leppert became the latest supporter to affix his John Hancock to the blade.
With the convention center hotel taking shape across the street, Leppert enthusiastically welcomed the expo-goers to town, telling them what a great, green place they'll find when they get out and look around. "Dallas has quietly become a leader" in green energy, Leppert said, running down a list of bullet points like:
- 40 percent of the city's energy consumption from renewable sources
- A cutting-edge methane-capture system at the McCommas Bluff landfill
- "The largest light rail expansion project in the country"
Leppert fondly recalled his time in China last year, including one visit to a wind turbine manufacturer that left him particularly inspired. "I could only think how great that plant would be in the southern part of our city," Leppert said.
For anyone who hadn't grasped the significance of the set piece, GE Power & Water President and CEO Steve Bolze jumped in to explain that "this massive, 131-foot blade is a powerful symbol" -- signed by 4,000 people already, even before reaching the convention.
Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, which puts on the annual expo, opened with more enthusiasm for the local prospects the wind industry offers. "The cool thing about wind is when you build the wind farms, it attracts manufacturing."