Enel, gone with the wind in the US
There are as many words for wind in Illinois as there are for snow in Lapland according to the great American author David Foster Wallace, who grew up on the vast prairies of the Midwest. Wind is such a constant presence in “The Prairie State,” as Illinois is known, that Wallace claimed the locals didn’t even bother combing their hair.
Harnessing the power of nature to drive sustainable development seems like a natural choice for the local energy system. And that is just what we are going to do: on 9 April, in fact, our subsidiary Enel Green Power North America started construction work on the HillTopper wind farm, our Group’s first in Illinois, where the long list of names for wind now includes Enel.
Enel Green Power on the prairies
The wind farm will have a capacity of 185 MW, of which 100 MW will be used to supply the General Motors plants in the neighbouring states of Indiana and Ohio, with a further 17 MW going to news and data giant Bloomberg. Thanks to two long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), our energy will allow both groups to achieve their environmental goals of meeting 100% of their electricity needs from renewable sources by 2050 and 2025 respectively. The wind farm is scheduled to go into operation by the end of the year and, once up to capacity, will generate around 570 GWh annually.
“The start of construction of HillTopper is a new milestone for our growth in the US renewable energy market and the PPAs with Bloomberg LP and General Motors are testament to the appeal of our customised renewable energy solutions to large corporate customers. Through these agreements, our customers gain access to affordable clean energy that supports their renewable goals, while also meeting their business objectives, and in return Enel is able to maintain long-term revenue certainty”
– Antonio Cammisecra, CEO Enel Green Power
Environmental and social sustainability together
HillTopper is just the latest Enel Green Power project in North America: our total installed power capacity, spread over 100 hydroelectric, wind, geothermal and solar facilities, is in excess of 4.2 GW, of which 1.2 GW went to the grid alone last year. In 2017, we were the fastest growing renewables company in the US and we are now also the largest wind farm operator in Kansas and Oklahoma, two other wind-rich prairie states.
We set that record in Oklahoma in January when the opening of the 298 MW Thunder Ranch and 300 MW Red Dirt plants brought the number of our wind farms to 10 with a total power capacity of over 1,700 MW.
Thunder Ranch and Red Dirt are examples of how our commitment to sustainability goes beyond merely protecting the environment through using renewable sources, and also extends to social factors that touch the local communities. The construction and opening of the plants are flanked by programmes that include recycling wood and other materials used, road maintenance work and financial support for such activities as the work of the fire service.
We presented the Red Dirt wind farm on 7 April by hosting an Open Plant event during which the EGP staff and the local residents, children included, gathered at the site for a barbecue, music and, of course, kite-flying. The get-together also gave the surrounding community a chance to get to learn more about wind power and its advantages for the environment and local economy.
“I believe it is important for Enel Green Power to initiate and support this type of event in our local communities. It’s a great chance to demonstrate to people here that we are part of this local community”
– Mark McMillin, Red Dirt Site Supervisor, Enel Green Power
Thunder Ranch, on the other hand, is EGP’s first North American wind farm to incorporate a photovoltaic system capable of powering site operations and maintenance work. This is yet another example of how different types of renewables can be integrated, very much as was the case with the Stillwater geothermal-solar site (in Nevada) and the Cove Fort geothermal-hydroelectric plant (in Utah).
Oklahoma’s wind and EGP have come together on other sustainable development projects, not least the Oklahoma KidWind Challenge: a competition in which middle and high school student teams designed and built wind turbines before testing them in a real wind tunnel. The students were given guided interactive tours of laboratories and had meetings about renewable resources, professions in the sector and their value to Oklahoma’s economy.
“The events organised as part of KidWind are an incredible way of teaching the new generations about the importance of producing and consuming renewable energy. EGP is always looking for ways of reinvesting in the communities it is involved with and we are proud to be part of this educational initiative”
– Marcus Krembs, Head of Sustainability, Enel Green Power North America
EGP sponsored the challenge for the second year running as a way of spreading the renewables culture, particularly to future generations, as well as supporting interested students and helping them develop skills that will be useful on the jobs market.
The winners will go on to the national finals, which take place in May during the annual AWEA Windpower Conference in Chicago (Illinois), with the Prairie State once again acting as the standard-bearer for our commitment to a sustainable future.