Conversation with Rob Morgan

Chief Development Officer, RES Americas

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Could you tell us a little about the history of RES Americas? 
RES Americas has been active in North America since 1997, with a renewable energy and storage construction portfolio of over 7,000 MW in operation.  Roughly half of that portfolio has been developed by RES Americas with the other half built for third parties.  RES Americas is a subsidiary of RES Ltd., founded in 1982 and headquartered in the UK.
What services and solutions does RES Americas offer to the wind energy industry?
RES Americas has a robust suite of in-house expertise and services that we offer to the wind energy industry, including resource assessment and early project development support, permitting/interconnection and late development support, engineering, procurement and construction, and operations.  RES Americas is distinguished by our dedicated staff of professionals throughout the value chain.
What types of clients does the company serve? Could you briefly describe what you do for those types of clients?
RES Americas has a diverse client base.  We have historically developed and constructed projects with an eye toward third-party ownership where the power production is contracted under a PPA with a utility counterparty.  We have also constructed projects developed by third parties and owned long term by those third parties. More recently, we are constructing projects for ownership directly by a utility, and we are supplying power under PPA to non-traditional buyers —companies with a nationwide footprint that are managing their carbon footprint.
RES Americas places a strong emphasis on sustainability. Can you go into a little detail about how that factors in to the company’s operations?
RES Americas is a value-based organization and sustainability is a core value of the company.  We are working on diverting an increasing percentage of our waste stream to recycling, composting, and re-use. Also, we encourage a reduced environmental impact by all our people through sustainable work/life choices such as participating in Bike to Work Day and the Green Car Incentive Program.   Going beyond our company, we are working with our supply chain to create demand for sustainable products and practices.
Walk our readers through the process RES Americas takes in wind project development.
Project development is a process that requires patience and problem solving.  From years of experience, RES Americas has broken that process down into the following steps:
  • Identify areas with promising wind or solar resources, compatible land uses, and access to transmission lines
  • Identify and map prospective sites
  • Establish and maintain strong relationships with landowners and negotiate wind or solar measurement agreements and/or land leases
  • Establish and maintain strong relationships with local stakeholders, including local government, environmental groups, and community groups among others
  • Commence project planning, design and engineering using RES Americas’ engineering team
  • Conduct environmental assessments and studies
  • Begin the permitting process
  • Discuss and negotiate offtake agreements with local utilities
  • Secure interconnection and transmission agreements
  • Secure financing for project construction
  • Construct the project using RES Americas’ construction team
  • Commence operations

How is that process unique? What sets it apart from competitors?

Our knowledge of development, engineering, and construction is different from our competitors, who typically are active on only one part of the value chain.  Our presence across the value chain allows us to deeply understand project risks and mitigate those risks for the project owner.
RES is built on a long legacy of construction services. How does that translate to wind farm projects and benefit wind customers?
Having an extensive knowledge of the construction industry and risks involved in construction allows us to manage and mitigate those risks for the benefit of project owners and to the ultimate benefit of the entire industry.  RES Americas has a very high regard for safety on its job sites and in our everyday work. In fact [at time of print], we have over a million man-hours without a recordable safety incident throughout the company.   Construction can be a demanding and risky business, but with the proper training and attention to site-specific risks, we can make it a safe and fulfilling business.
How does the company view the future of wind energy, both near and long-term?
We are extremely busy in 2014 & 2015, with over 1 GW of wind, solar and storage projects in construction or planned.  We are bullish long term as the cost of renewable resources hits grid parity without any price volatility that is inherent in the fossil fuel markets.  Across the spectrum of wind, solar and storage, manufacturers are making efficiency and cost improvements – all of which show up in an improved, lower price of electricity paid by consumers.
What other industries does RES Americas serve? With regard to energy projects, are there any efforts toward cogeneration plants, etc.?
RES Americas is pursuing energy projects that have a renewable fuel supply (or are non-polluting such as storage and transmission) so to the extent we go beyond wind, solar, storage and transmission, it will involve some other renewable fuel stream such as biogas.  Cogeneration is a very efficient process that captures waste heat for beneficial use, so renewable cogeneration would be an interesting combination.