Nearly everyone agrees that wind energy will play a growing and increasingly important role in our energy future. The reasons for that are many. But what does developing a wind project involve?
Never one shy about approaching an expert in an interesting energy field, I met today with Tanuj "TJ" Deora, a Denver-based project manager for Horizon Wind Energy. With a great amount of good cheer he responded to my question. But first, a bit of background on Horizon might be useful.
Horizon develops, constructs, owns, and operates wind farms throughout North America. Based in Houston, with over 20 offices across the United States, Horizon has developed more than 2,800 megawatts (MW) and operates over 2,000 MW of wind farms. In 2008 it ranked third in the U.S. in terms of installed wind capacity.
Typically, according to Mr. Deora, there are 14 steps involved in developing a wind project. His role is to manage the process from the very beginning to the point at which electricity generation begins.
Mr. Deora says that the sector -- that is the wind energy sector -- is past the "infant" stage and is moving to "adolescence" in the context of its development path. The "infancy" stage was in the 1970s and 1980s when utility-scale wind was first being assessed. In the 1990s and through the first decade of this century the issues are not so much whether it can work successfully, but instead focus on addressing some of the key tangential matters such as integration of wind-generated electricity onto the grid, transmission of electricity to load centers, and how best to mitigate environmental impacts related to wind projects.
He believes that wind power can (and will) play a major role in meeting future U.S. demand for electricity. He points to the conclusions of "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply," a report which was published in July 2008 by the U.S. Department of Energy with contributions from (among others) the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (a mere hop, skip, and a jump from the DU campus...well more along the lines of 50 kilometers) and the American Wind Energy Association.
Ten years ago I doubt there were many individuals around doing what Mr. Deora does now. But 10 years from now...well I would hazard a guess that developing wind energy projects is going to be a very exciting field.
Following my 90 minute tutorial I raised one more question: would he come to DU to speak to our students this autumn. He kindly agreed to.
TJ Deora is, in a very real sense, one of the pioneers in this new and vast business of wind energy. He represents the type of professional -- smart, well-educated (in his case an engineering degree followed by an MBA), committed, ethusiastic, persceptive -- who are coming to Colorado to become a part of the new energy economy. Our students are sure to benefit when he joins us this fall.