Conversation with Jason Heitman

Wind O&M Director  |  Enel Green Power

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What has been involved in getting the 300-MW Seven Cowboy wind project in Oklahoma started?

The Seven Cowboy Wind Project is the result of a decade worth of development activities. The adjacent project, Rocky Ridge, was built in 2012, and then Little Elk completed construction in 2015. Acreage that was not used for those two projects was then combined with additional leasing efforts to secure acreage to form the 300-MW Seven Cowboy Wind Project. Many years of environmental surveys were completed in addition to coordinating with the USFWS and ODWC. Transmission studies began taking place in 2016 to determine the project’s impact to the transmission system where the project would be interconnecting. Meteorological towers have been collecting wind data during that period, which helped to guide the design of the project currently under construction. The project has supported local organizations during the development and kept local officials aware of the project’s development status.

During the later stages of development, geotechnical investigation, ALTA surveys, and Phase I Environment Site Assessments were completed to ensure the project could feasibly be built in the areas selected for facilities to be located. Equipment was procured and contractors were selected to build the project while coordination was ongoing with landowners about where the facilities would be best located on their property to create minimal disturbance. This information was all used to further the engineering design to produce the most efficient project with the least impact to the land.

The training facility will help train new hires in-house to equip them for Enel Green Power’s open positions in Oklahoma and beyond. (Courtesy: Enel Green Power)

Did the project face any special challenges?

Every project is unique and faces different challenges. This project has extremely supportive local communities and landowners, which aids in the company being able to develop a project that provides the most positive benefit for all of those local stakeholders. A unique challenge this project had the opportunity to successfully work through were the transmission studies. Enel’s transmission team analyzed each milestone of results and had to be progressive and creative when providing guidance on what would be the best way to continue development of this project so that it has the greatest chance of reaching success.

The wind project will boast a nearby training center. Is that a unique arrangement?

Yes, it is. Enel operates 11 wind farms in Oklahoma and is invested in developing Oklahoma’s clean-energy workforce. We have a history of supporting Oklahoma and that includes the creation of over 130 long-term jobs and over $2 million in support for community initiatives. The training facility will help train new hires in-house to equip them for our open positions in Oklahoma and beyond.

For clarification, the office and training center are not specifically linked to the wind project aside from the fact that they are being built in the same state at the same time. Workers across Enel’s entire wind fleet — including Seven Cowboy — will train in Oklahoma City. The office and wind project will be located approximately 100 miles apart.

New wind workers can experience climbing and maintaining wind turbines through training simulations held year-round. (Courtesy: Enel Green Power)

Will training at the center be just for the Seven Cowboy project, or will it be a more generalized training center for any wind job?

No, training at this center will support Enel Green Power North America’s entire wind fleet.

What types of courses will be available at the training center?

Courses will include topics such as safety, professional development, working at heights, ladder rescues, turbine repair, and troubleshooting. Trainees will learn in multiple settings including classroom discussion, hands-on simulation, and virtual reality. New wind workers can experience climbing and maintaining wind turbines through training simulations held year-round.

The classroom and meeting space in the new Midtown office will allow Enel to welcome school groups and other community organizations to learn about renewable energy and STEM concepts first-hand. (Courtesy: Enel Green Power)

What has been the local reaction to the wind project and training center?

Local reaction has been positive so far. Oklahoma City is a growing city that has historically been dependent on the oil and gas industry, so our growth downtown is evidence of the diversification of the local economy. Renewable energy in Oklahoma continues its upward trajectory, and we’re happy to contribute to its workforce growth. Additionally, the classroom and meeting space in the new Midtown office will allow us to welcome school groups and other community organizations to learn about renewable energy and STEM concepts first-hand from our experts and education partners.

What’s the timetable for the Seven Cowboy wind project and the training center?

The Seven Cowboy project is still under construction and is expected to be in operation by the end of 2022. The training center is expected to be in operation by this summer.

More info www.enelgreenpower.com