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Increased government funding looks to be a boon for the renewable energy industry, said Adrian LaTrace ‘04 during an April 10 visit to the Kellogg School.

Adrian LaTrace

Kellogg EMBA grad sees potential in wind power

Adrian LaTrace ’04 offers inside look at renewable energy — including the sector’s career opportunities

By Amy Trang

4/13/2009 - Wind is picking up, according to a Kellogg School graduate who provided an intimate look at the opportunities in the green energy industry.

Kellogg graduate Adrian LaTrace ’04 presented a behind-the-scenes look at the wind turbine industry to Kellogg Executive MBA Program (EMBA) students April 10 at the James L. Allen Center as part of the Executive MBA Luncheon Speaker Series.

With policymakers’ support and committed government spending, experts like LaTrace say that the next big boost in the economy could come from developing renewable energies, including wind turbines.

LaTrace, himself a Kellogg EMBA graduate, is vice president and general manager of Acciona Windpower North America, which manufactures wind turbines. The windpower division is part of Spain-based Acciona, a $16 billion global company that provides sustainable development solutions including in solar, biomass, geothermal and bio-fuels technologies.

Acciona is one of the industry’s smaller wind turbine manufacturers, attracting customers like utility companies and colleges or local municipalities, LaTrace said.

The turbines that Acciona and other wind turbine companies build range from 80-100 meters in height with motor blades between 70-116 meters in diameter, capable of producing enough energy to power 900 homes, according to LaTrace. What’s more, the scale of the wind turbines has provided additional opportunities for suppliers to support the manufacturers, such as by building some of the turbine’s components and transporting the machines.

Although the growth forecast of the renewable energies market is typically measured in decades, the global economic crisis has slowed the speed of this industry’s growth, LaTrace said. Developers are struggling to secure the money to finance wind turbines resulting in a slower demand for the machines.

“The debt to build wind farms is being lent, but the projects are being scrutinized even more,” LaTrace said.

However, LaTrace said recent moves in public policy will help propel the industry with job creation and research and development support. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy released a roadmap leading to the country generating some 20 percent of its electricity by wind power by 2030. President Barack Obama has said that he wants to double the U.S. renewable energy production in three years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has set aside $70 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, LaTrace said.

With this predicted growth as a backdrop, LaTrace offered tips to Kellogg students looking to break into the renewable energies market. He suggested that students narrow their interest to a specific sector and be knowledgeable about the technology in that segment. He also said attending industry conventions and trade shows combined with networking with industry professionals will give students an advantage for jobs.

“It’s really an interesting time to be in the industry,” LaTrace said. “Climate change hasn’t stopped. If we don’t do something, things are going to change in a bad way.”