Trump Or No Trump, US Wind Energy Propels Global Growth For GE

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It looks like the Trump Administration’s fossil friendly energy policy is poised for loser status before it even gets off the ground. The first blow came earlier this week, when the Solar Foundation revealed that job creation in the US solar industry outperformed the national average by a long shot last year. In the latest development, GE has just announced that demand for wind energy in the US is partly to thank for the explosive growth of its Onshore Wind division in 2016.

The global energy and technology leader booked more than seven gigawatts of onshore wind orders last year, toting up to more than $3 billion worth of orders — and that’s just counting the fourth quarter.

All this translates into jobs, jobs and more jobs…

A Banner Year for GE Onshore Wind Energy

GE’s new announcement is brief but packed with juicy wind power stats. Here’s a sampling:

…GE Renewable Energy’s Onshore Wind signed agreements in 19 countries around the world, including orders in Japan, India and Germany. The business also booked orders in Greece and Saudi Arabia for the first time ever. GE’s onshore wind installed base now stands at nearly 57,000 MW of global capacity.

If that thing about Saudi Arabia — one of the epicenters of the global petroleum industry — comes as a surprise, consider that late last year the Saudi-based company ACWA Power launched a renewable energy division. Saudi Arabia is also moving toward solar power as a domestic energy source to replace its reliance on diesel fuel.

As for the strong showing last year, GE President and CEO of GE Renewable Energy Jérôme Pécresse gives credit where credit is due:

“…We are thrilled with the customer response to investments the Onshore Wind team made in developing new products and solutions, especially in the US where our new platform is contributing ~75% of our orders in 2016.”

The impressive 2016 figures are important because they validate the risk that GE took when it launched the $10 billion startup GE Renewable Energy. In addition to onshore wind the startup includes offshore wind, hydropower and concentrating solar.

So far GE Renewable Energy has notched more than 400 gigawatts on its belt, and its mission statement makes it clear that renewable energy is an unstoppable force:

Our goal is to demonstrate to the rest of the world that nobody should ever have to choose between affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy.

Wind-Hating President Presides Over Wind Lovers

Oh, the irony! At the present time, the Office of the President of the United States is occupied by Donald J. Trump. Among the many things for which he has gained notoriety, President Trump is known for his skittish relationship with renewable energy in general, and wind in particular.

As evidence, take a look at the “America First” energy plan articulated by the Trump Administration.

It starts off on the right foot…

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.

…but keep reading, and there’s no mention of the vast solar, offshore wind, and onshore wind potential in the US. Or, for that matter, geothermal or hydropower potential.

Instead we get this:

The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own…

Coal gets a few lines, too. Very few. For those of you keeping score at home, it’s probably no accident that the resources related to the ExxonMobil sector — oil and gas — get a total of eight lines compared to the mere two allotted to coal:

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.


Whither Coal?

Despite all those campaign promises, it looks like the Trump Administration is not really serious about reviving the US coal industry.

It doesn’t look like coal state representatives in Congress will be much help, either. US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), for example, seems to spend more time advocating for fossil energy projects elsewhere  than advocating for his constituents at home.

In fact, McConnell has already written off coal jobs in his home state, but not to worry — energy jobs are still tricking back into Kentucky, coal or no coal.

Kentucky does not have ideal wind resources compared to some other states, but its solar resources have come under the eye of companies like the global personal care leader L’Oreal, which has decided to make its Kentucky operations a worldwide showcase for sustainable manufacturing.

Last year L’Oreal announced a plan to outfit its Kentucky plant with 5,000 solar panels. Here’s the money quote from Plant Manager Eric Wolff:

With this project, our facility becomes an emblem of sustainable manufacturing. We’re proud to be leading the way for commercial renewable energies in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, hundreds of other US business leaders have prevailed upon the Trump Administration to pay more attention to climate change.

Dream on, Klingons.

On the bright side, whether Trump addresses climate change or not, the world — and that includes the US — is already moving on to renewable energy.

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Photo: GE “Space Frame” wind turbine tower by Tina Casey.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3140 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey