Wind company plants stake in OKCPublished: Friday, May 25, 2018 By: Sarah Terry-Cobo
The state’s largest wind farm operator is settling into downtown. Enel Green Power North America leased nearly 1,700 square feet of office space in the Robinson Renaissance building in Oklahoma City’s Central Business District.
Renewable energy economist Travis Roach said he didn’t expect pushback about the company’s presence, even though the wind developer opened an office in the midst of several large and small oil and gas companies’ headquarters. The professor at the University of Central Oklahoma said the new office is exactly the kind of economic development that chambers of commerce tout.
“Perhaps they are trying to sow some good faith and say, ‘we are here, whether you want us or not,'” Roach said.
The company hasn’t always received the warmest of welcomes in the communities where it builds large wind farms. The Osage Minerals Council and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs sued Enel in 2014 after a contractor began removing dirt and gravel for a project without the tribe’s permission, infringing on the sovereign nation’s exclusive subsurface mineral rights. The issue is still sensitive for some tribal lawmakers as an unrelated wind transmission project develops.
Enel spokesman Mark Meyers said he’s one of three employees in the office who will help support the field operations management staff. There aren’t immediate plans to hire more people in that office.
“We’re centrally located, so it only made sense to open an office in Oklahoma City,” Meyers said.
Enel Green Power is a subsidiary of Enel Group and is based in Rome, Italy. It operates in 30 countries around the world and produces electricity from biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal, solar and wind sources. It manages a capacity of about 40 gigawatts and more than 1,200 power plants. Its first Oklahoma wind farm, Chisolm View, began operation in 2012. Enel now has 10 wind farms across the state.
Derek James, an associate broker at Price Edwards & Co., represented Enel in the lease transaction. He said landlord Newmark Grubb has a solid tenant on its hands.
“I don’t know much about their presence in the market, but the landlords look at a tenant’s ability to pay rent on time,” James said. “With the credit level Enel provides, you don’t hold your breath on signing a lease with landlord expenditures.”
Enel workers around the state have volunteered in the local communities where the company’s wind farms are located, including participating in Chickasha’s annual Festival of Light. It paid for two Pawhuska teachers to attend a wind power workshop in Philadelphia, so the educators can teach students about wind power. The company donated about $200,000 to bring antiquities to the University of Oklahoma’s Hidden Treasures of Rome art exhibit and donated about $50,000 to a children’s museum in Enid. Its workers have also participated in educational events such as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, workshop at Autry Technology Center near Enid.
Roach said leasing an office space in the community and playing an active role are two very different things.
“But if that presence leads them to sponsor more movie nights at the Myriad, or be involved in the Chamber, that’s a huge benefit to them and to the Chamber,” he said. “They’ve brought in a major Italian firm; that’s exactly what the Chamber is trying to do. That’s economic development.”