In northern Germany, “moin, moin” is the short way of saying hello. Turn around and say goodbye, and “tschüss” is the word.
I learned the words while working for the world’s largest and longest-running wind energy industry trade show last month. While there, I couldn’t help wondering why we in the U.S. have been so willing to forego moin for tschüss when it comes to wind.
HUSUM WindEnergy is held every two years in Husum, Germany, a town of about 20,000 on the North Sea in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. It more than doubles the town’s population with 23,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors, including the biggest global names in wind.
Also like home, the wind blows there, a lot. There was one striking difference, however. In Schleswig-Holstein, wind turbines are everywhere. The German state is a leader in wind energy development.
Speaking at “The New Energy Economy,” a forum hosted by the Global Wind Energy Council during HUSUM, Carsten said wind has created about 7,000 jobs and annually generates 6 million Euros in tax revenue.
The same is beginning to happen here. In Sweetwater, Texas, a town of 12,000, more than 1,124 people work in wind. Mayor Greg Wortham said that represents 20 percent of jobs created since 2003, and the regional economic impact is more than $400 million. That’s big money for any rural community.
Wind generation in North Dakota was 1.8 percent of state generation. This, despite the fact that North Dakota has the greatest wind potential in the nation, has way more potential than Schleswig-Holstein and is often called the “Saudi Arabia of Wind.”
There are reasons for this deficiency. The transmission infrastructure isn’t up to moving wind-generated electricity, and the cost of building more is huge. Other national challenges include a limited supply of towers, turbines and other equipment; the uncertainty of the federal wind production tax credit; and opposition to what some consider unattractive turbines.
The answer to our national energy crisis is not entirely blowin’ in the wind, but it can certainly be a bigger part of the solution. We can and should be more like Schleswig-Holstein.