Pittsburgh Technical Council

A Mighty Wind: Jim Spencer talks about Pennsylvania as a Center of Renewable Energy

A Mighty Wind: Jim Spencer talks about Pennsylvania as a Center of Renewable Energy

Article Published: April 21, 2014

Jim -Spencer -HeadshotInterview by Jonathan Kersting, Associate Publisher

Jim Spencer, President and CEO of EverPower Wind Holdings, has more than 25 years of experience in the power industry managing the development and financing of energy projects in developed and underdeveloped countries. He founded EverPower in 2002 to pursue renewable energy development. Prior to 2002, he served as an advisor to Renewable Energy Systems Limited (RES) and was instrumental in establishing RES’s Asia Pacific presence in NSW Australia. He also served as a director of RES Asia Pacific from its inception until 2004.

Made in PA: Tell us all about EverPower and your role in the company.

Jim Spencer: EverPower Wind Holdings is a developer, owner and operator of utility-grade wind farms across the United States. We currently operate six wind farms in three states (Pennsylvania, New York and California) with a total of 512MW’s of power and we are actively looking to build upon that number with both acquired projects and through our strong project pipeline. 

I established the company in 2002, along with my by business partners, Andrew Golembeski and Kevin Sheen. Our goal was to develop renewable energy projects in the US and to build a project portfolio. The company is owned by Terra Firma Capital Partners, a London-based private equity firm. Our headquarters are in Pittsburgh and we also have offices in New York City and Bellefontaine, Ohio. 

MiPA: How does wind power fit into our country’s energy portfolio?

JS: Wind energy currently accounts for four percent of our national energy use. Although there are no federal mandates on the amount of energy that must be supplied by renewable sources, there are approximately 29 states that have some form of Renewable Portfolio Standard. Recently, President Obama tripled the mandate for federal agency renewable energy use by 2020. The mandate raises that from 7.5 percent to 20 percent.

MiPA: There are several myths surrounding wind power. Give us more detail on that.

JS: We encourage interested readers more detail about these myths on our website. They can also go to www.awea.org

One of the most important myths I would like to address is that
wind is more expensive than other forms of energy. The cost of wind
energy has been steadily decreasing as technology has improved, and it is
estimated that wind power will be on par with thermal power plants by 2016. The greatest feature of wind energy, in my mind, is that it causes no environmental damage or increased health costs.

MiPA: How has wind power positively impacted rural communities?

JS: Our wind farms have provided both short- and long-term jobs to rural communities in the form of construction and operation jobs. Landowners on whose land we operate receive lease payments and the local municipalities receive tax payments each year that can reach millions of dollars over the life of a project. These payments bolster local economies, support public schools and lower the tax burden for residents.

MiPA: What are some of the bigger opportunities and projects that are happening in Pennsylvania?

JS: Wind generation supplies about one percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity. However, there is the potential for wind energy to meet more than 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity needs, which represents a major gap and opportunity.

Pennsylvania has an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard that requires electricity suppliers to supply 18 percent of sales from alternative energy sources by 2020. We expect there to be increasing demand in Pennsylvania for wind projects in order to achieve this standard.

MiPA: Are there manufacturing/supply chain opportunities for PA manufacturers in the wind industry?

JS: While the manufacturing and supply chain in Pennsylvania has been recently impacted by uncertainty in the industry, there remain opportunities for Pennsylvania to continue to use its manufacturing heritage and skills for the wind industry. The end of 2013 saw an increase in the number of projects going into construction and power purchase agreements being signed. Furthermore, the need to fulfill renewable portfolio standards in the state and mid-Atlantic region will help drive wind energy growth. This presents a significant opportunity for Pennsylvania manufacturers to increase their commitment to the wind industry at a state and regional level.

 

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