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USA: TOWER Conference 2011: The Success of Texas Offshore Wind Energy

Published at: Oct 16, 2011
source: GACC South
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The Second Annual Texas Offshore Wind Energy Roundtable (TOWER) Conference 2011 and the Offshore Wind Law (OWL) Conference have just completed another successful year. Industry leaders and speakers were on hand to give the most current updates on the Texas offshore wind market.

Houston, TX – The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern US, Inc. and the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse were proudly gathered in the main auditorium after the 2nd Texas Offshore Wind Energy Roundtable (TOWER) Conference had been carried out successfully.

Rounding up top industry leaders and experts, the 2nd annual TOWER Conference was enhanced by the appearances of Dr. Christopher Hart, Offshore Manager of the Department of Energy as well as Dave Belote, Executive Director of the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse. It was the variety of speakers which allowed attendees to understand the current developments in the offshore wind industry from multiple points of views.

After the grand opening speeches by Niedersachsen Minister of Economics, Labour and Transport, Jörg Bode, Niedersachsen Minister of the Environment and Climate Protection, Hans-Heinrich Sander, and the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Roland Herrmann, the long anticipated outlook on the offshore wind developments within the US were presented by Dr. Christopher Hart.

After describing the current state of offshore wind energy in the US, business developers such as 4C Offshore, Baryonyx and Coastal Point Energy gave their newest updates on development ideas created and partially realized over the past year.

The Honorable Jerry Patterson filled the room with amusing jokes during his telling of the historical upcoming of the state of Texas and his take on answering the question, why the Lone Star State has such a unique position for developing an offshore wind industry.

The afternoon session included the Offshore Wind Turbine Manufacturers Showcase, which was highlighted by presentations from Alstom Power, Siemens Energy, Vestas Offshore North America, and Gamesa. After a Q&A session, the TOWER Conference concluded its first day with a networking reception, where many relationships in the industry were made and strengthened. The fruits of this event will undoubtedly be seen in the months and years to come off of the Texas coastline.

Simultaneous to the TOWER Conference that afternoon, legal experts were upstairs at the Offshore Wind Law (OWL) Conference, where they learned more about the unique legalities and regulations concerning the Texas offshore wind energy market. OWL Participants also received 12.0 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credit from the State Bar of Texas Committee on MCLE. Representatives from firms across the state, such as Vinson & Elkins, LLP, Sedgwick, LLP, and Winston & Strawn, LLP, gave presentations filled with insight and information.

The second day opened with a highly anticipated speech from Dave Belote, the Executive Director of the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse. Mr. Belote enlightened listeners on how renewable energy developments impact military bases and installations.

With both forums running simultaneously again, the morning session of TOWER was focused where all offshore projects set sail, the ports. Participants were not only treated to presentations from large local ports, such as, Houston, Freeport, and Corpus Christi, but they also found out more from a global perspective. Mr. Nils Schnorrenberger of BIS Economic Development Company Ltd. was on hand to share Germany’s port expertise in the offshore wind market by presenting on the German offshore port of Bremerhaven with the crowd of Texans.

The main themes at OWL that morning were the Texas offshore environmental concerns and regulations. Brent Stahl, Partner at Stahl, Bernal & Davies clarified perhaps one of the most important steps in an offshore installation, the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Other presentations focused on the more well-known environmental matters such as, the impact of wind turbines on ecosystems and water fowl.

The two groups reunited once again for the keynote luncheon, which was given by Rick Viera, Vice President of Industry at Bureau Veritas.

That afternoon, TOWER shifted its focus from the problems of setting sail to the problems of installation and transmitting the electricity itself. Some presentations touched upon the subjects of transmission grids and cable installations, while others described the challenges of constructing offshore wind farms.

The topic that is almost always on every offshore wind developer’s mind, money, was saved that day for the afternoon OWL session. Speakers there discussed certain financial considerations as well as risk mitigation strategies and insurance issues. While there are challenges in financing and insuring the success of offshore wind installations, the speakers showed that they can be easily met and overcome.

However, participants were soon rewarded with a combined panel discussion, which was moderated by Mark Leyland, Senior Vice President of Offshore Wind, Baryonyx Corporation. With that and a BMW raffle, the TOWER Conference 2011 came to a close. While only one person drove away in a piece of German engineering, every participant left with a greater knowledge of what the Texas offshore wind market has to offer.

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