Today is Global Wind Energy Day and back in New York City at 8:30 a.m. — 5:30 a.m. our time — a new green label, WindMade, was launched at a media event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
The result of an international effort, the new label will be available later this year to companies that procure at least 25 percent of their electricity from wind sources. Standards and a label for individual products are also under development and could be available in 2012.
The idea, as speakers at the event said, is to bridge the gap between existing consumer demand for cleaner, greener energy and lagging or, in the case of the U.S., nonexistent national policy to promote renewable energy.
“It gives consumers the opportunity to vote with their wallet,” said Bragi Fjalldal, director for emerging markets at Vestas Wind Systems, one of the companies behind the new label.
A survey of thousands of consumers in 20 countries found that 79 percent would be willing to pay more for products made with wind energy, he said.
Other companies and trade groups behind the new label range from the World Wildlife Federation to the Global Wind Energy Council and American Wind Energy Association to Bloomberg, Lego and Price Waterhouse Coopers.
That kind of corporate support shows in the new organization’s website — where you immediately find a multimedia intro and user-friendly video ready to roll and go viral.
“We wanted a program robust enough that it would drive new wind investment and development around the world (and) flexible enough to (let companies) participate,” said Elizabeth Salerno, chief economist at the American Wind Energy Association.
To meet the 25 percent standard, a company would either have to build its own wind installation, have a long-term power purchase agreement to buy wind energy or buy renewable energy credits, called RECs, from a verifiable source, she said.
The label will also have two levels — one certifying a company is using at least 25 percent wind energy and a second for companies hitting the 25 percent wind mark and using other forms of renewable energy as well. Companies will have to recertified every year.
Today’s event marked the roll-out of the proposed standards companies will have to meet to qualify for the WindMade label and the beginning of a 60-day public comment period.
The subtext here is that the groups and individuals involved realize they will need broad buy-in from businesses and the public. They will also need to ensure that the WindMade standards are rigorous enough so the label doesn’t become an easy green-wash device for companies seeking to cash in on consumer demand for cleaner energy.
For example, a company that earns a corporate-level WindMade label would not be able to use it on individual products that might be made in off-shore factories run on coal or oil.
The WindMade label could also be a wake-up call for wind energy in the Coachella Valley.
The San Gorgonio Pass is filled with thousands of windmills but many are old, inefficient or broken down. While repowering efforts are underway, a lot more needs to be done to keep the region competitive with new wind plants coming online in Southern California and across the country.
The WindMade program could be a spur for the region to tap into the growing demand for wind energy, update its aging turbines and draw new investment and development for wind projects in the area.