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Friday, May 8, 2009

Riding the current of change

From an article article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Chicago - Anyone looking for signs that sectors of the economy have found some shelter from the recession needed only to walk the halls of the McCormick Place convention center Thursday.

With more than 1,200 exhibitors, the world's largest trade show for the wind power industry saw record attendance in its bid to prove that energy from wind has escaped the label "alternative."

"When you look at this show, you wouldn't know there's a slowdown in the economy," Kim Zuhlke, an executive at Alliant Energy Corp., said while standing between massive booths at the conference Thursday.

Organizers of Windpower 2009, sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association, weren't sure how their conference would do, but the show ended up attracting more than 20,000 people. That's 60% more than attended last year in Houston, the association said.

The recession has hit the wind power industry just like every other sector of the economy, as projects stalled for lack of financing. In an industry forecast earlier this year, the association said the wind industry is likely to slow this year after setting records for new projects last year.

"Everyone's been in a holding pattern. It's not just wind energy - the entire country had taken a pause," said Ellen Shafer of Broadwind Energy, based near Chicago.

But the mood at the convention this week has been one of optimism, said Shafer, whose company has two Wisconsin subsidiaries - TowerTech, a Manitowoc maker of wind towers, and Badger Transport of Clintonville, a trucking company specializing in hauling the oversized components that are the of a wind farm development.

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