Enel Green Power North America, Inc. (EGP-NA) is currently exploring the use of drones for wind turbine blade inspections at its 150 MW Lindahl wind project, located just north of Tioga, North Dakota. Drone technology has enormous potential to transform many industries, including the renewable energy industry, and with this transformation comes more opportunities for highly-skilled careers in the field. In Tioga, EGP-NA is helping to prepare students to take advantage of these opportunities by partnering with the Tioga Area Economic Development Corporation (TAEDC) to introduce drone technology to the next generation
Tioga – often referred to as the “Oil Capital of North Dakota” – is looking to refresh its image. With the oil industry experiencing frequent ups and downs in recent years, the TAEDC wants to expand the city’s prowess beyond oil to also include modern and innovative energy forms. With this transformation, the TAEDC hopes the city will also be known as the “Energy and Innovation Capital.” Progress on this goal is already being made – EGP-NA’s Lindahl Wind Project, located just north of Tioga, started operations in April 2017 and is the first wind farm in the oil-dominated Bakken Shale region.
To further advance Tioga’s new image, EGP-NA is teaming up with Tioga Public Schools and TAEDC to host the city’s second annual “Tioga Drone Camp for Kids!” This two-day camp will take place in conjunction with other local science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEM) Technology Camps across western North Dakota this summer. On August 5 and 6, 80 local students, from 5th to 12th grade, learned and practiced drone piloting skills, and discovered the exciting career opportunities drone technology has to offer. Upon successful completion of an obstacle course conducted by Minot Aeroport Hobby Shoppe, students walked away from the camp with a personal drone, provided by EGP-NA, so they could continue to practice their piloting skills at home.
In the year since the first Drone Camp, students at Tioga High School have been exposed to drone education in their curriculum with direct access to a professional drone donated by Tioga Economic Development and EGP-NA. In addition to sponsoring this year’s Drone Camp, EGP-NA will expand its relationship with Tioga Public Schools by investing in a 3D printer, equipping local schools with the ability to provide unique educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) fields, and to further distinguish the area as a hub of innovation.
Beyond investing in STEAM curriculums in primary and secondary education, EGP-NA is also providing two $2,500 scholarships for Lake Region State College’s wind technician training program to students from the Tioga and Williams County area. Rapid growth in the wind energy industry has sparked a burgeoning need for wind turbine technicians, making it one of the fastest growing careers in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow 108 percent over the next ten years. EGP-NA is proud to help local students to capitalize on the opportunities in the wind industry, by giving them access to Lake Region State College’s two-year degree or one-year certificate program, the first of its kind in the state of North Dakota.
EGP-NA is committed to creating value in the communities in which it operates. Last year’s Tioga Drone Camp received a Community Development award from the Economic Association of North Dakota (EDND), which recognizes an economic development project that increases the quality of life in the area. The camp is just one example of EGP-NA’s dedication to making a positive impact on the communities in which its projects are situated. The company continues to partner with local stakeholders so that the investments EGP-NA makes provide practical solutions for the needs of the region.