Year 2011: EGP to discover renewable energy in the world
The Lebanese-born philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb defines as “black swans” all unfathomable events of a global magnitude that have the power to deflect the course of history. These moments, whether good or bad, represent a disruption from a trajectory that seemed inescapable.
The energy sector experienced its very own “black swan” moment on March 2011, when the nefarious combo of a tremendously potent earthquake and the ensuing tsunami literally tore to pieces what was regarded as a nation’s unshakable reliance on nuclear power. Japan, the world’s third economy and one of the most energy-intensive countries on the global market, suddenly had to make do without a whopping 300 GW worth of nuclear energy. Meanwhile in Germany, Chancellor Merkel wasted no time in setting the framework for a German nuclear phase out by 2022.
As the black swan loomed ominously over Fukushima, pro-renewable voices gained strength the world over. Italy wasn’t immune from this global wave of opinion as millions casted their vote in a June 2011 revocatory referendum that took off the table by a landslide majority any chance of yet another reboot of Italy’s nuclear power program.
By acknowledging that the global energy system is a giant with feet of clay, Enel Green Power set forth with renewed determination on the most important yet delicate phase of its young history: exploring new technologies, new markets and new ways to interact with its surrounding environment.
After its birth, the two-year period 2011-2013 is a time of great change for EGP. It’s a phase of its corporate history where the acquired experience and the self-awareness of its capabilities are both steadily growing while at the same time, it’s a moment to ponder on how an excellent execution, in the way power plants are built, in how technologies are harnessed and in the way teams are guided, will all prove pivotal in the way the promise of a green energy revolution is to be entirely fulfilled. Hence, this proves to be the drive that keeps us searching for new solutions.
“The most captivating part of our history is that, notwithstanding the whirlwind speeds at which the various scenarios are evolving, we’ve still managed to stay aloft at the very core of this flurry, guiding its direction, sometimes getting carried by it and at times even giving it a little more kick.”
– Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of Enel Green Power
Some rare kind of fusion
It’s a mixed bag of courage, openness to the world and desire to experiment with something unconventional that brought EGP back to the American state of Nevada where it first operated since 2009 at the Stillwater geothermal power plant.
In 2011 an R&D cooperation agreement was signed with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, under supervision from the Office of Geothermal Technologies from the US Department of Energy, enabling Enel Green Power to transform Stillwater in the world’s first power station that combines binary-cycle medium enthalpy geothermal technology with thermodynamic and photovoltaic solar.
For EGP’s vision, the Stillwater site plays a fundamental role as a technological hub, right at the heart of an energy market that considers innovation a defining trait.
While in Nevada the heat from the Earth’s core mingles with the heat of the Sun’s rays, in Catania, Sicily, the 3SUN factory churns out over 160 MW-worth of solar panels each year, fueling Italy’s impetuous solar PV growth with a whole new series of EGP solar parks as well as meeting growing demand from highly dynamic markets in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
While the sun shines brightly, it’s the wind’s turn to make EGP soar to new heights as it carries aloft its energy from the Alps to the Andes, as it passes by Sardinia to gift it with the country’s biggest wind farm. In the town of Portoscuso, a stone’s throw from the Sulcis region home to Italy’s now disused coal mines, giant wind generators provide 90 MW of energy that cover the energy needs of over 70,000 families.
“We’ve built a system that unites people under a common vision, both idealistic and rock-solid, hence we take pride in having created quite a rare kind of fusion.”
– Francesco Starace, CEO Enel
Winds are blowing strong in the New World
Between 2011 and 2012 the entire American continent was swept by a new wave of EGP-branded wind power. Brazil saw the first of many new wind farms in the Federal state of Bahia, with the 30 MW Cristal power plant.
In Chile, Enel Green Power takes home the first national public tender for the construction of new wind farms, organized jointly by the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of National commons.
While Chile is still waiting for its wind turbines to start rolling, way up north in the American states of Oklahoma and Kansas, our wind farms are already spinning.
In Oklahoma, EGP boasts its 150 MW Rocky Ridge wind farm while in Kansas, the Caney River plant is somewhat special. Not only for its extra-large size of 200 MW, but for how it represents the first and foremost implementation of the CSV model (Creating shared value): a true harbinger of positive change for the communities that live and work in the wind farm’s environs.
A sizeable chunk of the construction investment - 8,5 million dollars - was earmarked to carry out extensive research on the local ecosystem and wildlife, as a preliminary step in the path to establish a 18,000 acre Nature Reserve that encompasses over 6,000 acres of pristine tallgrass prairie.
Africa, our way
In a small world, the majestic expanses of the American prairie are just steps away from the endless plains of South Africa. In 2011, Enel Green Power heeds the call of the South African government as it finally acts to tap on the immense renewable energy potential of the “Rainbow Country” as a tool for a truly sustainable development.
Pretoria’s call is finely crafted in an effective system of tenders that bring together the planning vision of the public sector with the entrepreneurship of the private sector, namely the Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme (REIPPP). Enel Green Power gets the green light to start construction on two solar PV plants of 10 and 66 MW, respectively. These are the ground breakers for a presence that will gradually spread throughout this territory.
“There were issues arising from cultural differences and diverging views on working methods, but also issues linked to the harsh climate conditions we found in some territories: working at minus 20 C°, in the middle of the desert or a jungle and at high altitudes, all require great resilience. Fortunately, we’ve always chosen the right people who proved great skills, endurance and passion for their jobs. EGP really benefited from this Can-Do attitude.”
– Vittorio Vagliasindi, E&C manager, Global Thermal Generation
EGP’s white swan
If Nassim Nicholas Taleb envisages the existence of “black swans”, at the same time we rightly feel the need to imagine our own “white swan” moments, who harbour the promise of a bright future through their extraordinary commonness. This Enel Green Power “white swan” unravels at the end of 2013, when Antonio Lemme - Head of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality - first reaches the Palo Viejo hydro power plant in Guatemala.
“The most intriguing thing about Palo Viejo is its total adherence to a whole-hearted experience made of human relations, preliminary studies, creating shared value and safety. For instance, trying to curb work-related injuries wasn’t easy. Our challenge was to prove how teaching safety measures in an understandable way for the local culture is after all a doable feat.”
– Antonio Lemme, Head of Health, Safety, Environment e Quality, E&C - EGP
The 85 MW hydroelectric plant - inaugurated in 2012 - not only represents a solid token of EGP’s growth in South America, but foremost, it’s a glaring example of how ever growing facets of business can thrive and drive change, especially one linked with our commitment towards the safety and wellbeing of the local communities and the workers who build and manage our power plants.
Read the third chapter.