powering on

Packaging producer procures power purchase plan with Texas solar projects

The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid. Photo via Pexels

A leading provider of sustainable fiber-based paper and packaging solutions is supporting the first of two Texas-based solar projects.

WestRock set the stage by entering into virtual power purchase agreements with Houston-based ENGIE North America. The two projects are in Wharton County and Bell County and will add renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

Bernard Creek Solar is the first of two solar projects that are part of the VPPAs between WestRock and ENGIE, and is currently operating southwest of Houston in Wharton County. WestRock contracted 207 megawatts from the project Under the VPPA. The 230 megawatts Bernard Creek solar project is projected to produce approximately 500,000 megawatts an hour annually, which will generate over $45 million in revenue for the county and create more than 250 jobs during construction.

The WestRock VPPA for the Bernard Creek project, and the similar project located in Bell County, will add a total of 282 megawatts of renewable energy to the Texas energy grid.

"We are delighted that Bernard Creek Solar is supporting WestRock’s ambitions to meet its 2030 science-based targets,” Dave Carroll, chief renewables officer at ENGIE, says in a news release. “North AmericaENGIE’s projects are focused on meeting the specific needs of our clients as we work together to accelerate the energy transition in North America, and this agreement reflects that."

The VPPAs with WestRock have contributed to ENGIE to surpass more than 1 gigawatt of signed power purchases. ENGIE is recognized as the top developer to sell corporate energy PPAs and has ranked in the top three since 2019 with a total corporate PPA portfolio in the USA of 7.3 according to BloombergNEF's latest Market Outlook report. Schneider Electric’s Sustainability Business provided the advisory services and strategy management for these pivotal VPPAs with WestRock.

"We are pleased to play a role in the production of clean energy from large-scale solar projects and to join forces with ENGIE and Schneider Electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adding more renewable energy to the grid,” David B. Sewell, president and CEO at WestRock, adds.

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A View From HETI

The program will allow students to learn at their own pace, and is supported seven days a week by tutorial and technical staff, and offers flexible payment options with a low initial registration fee. Photo via UH

University of Houston-Downtown announced a new Wind Turbine Technician Certificate Program.

UHD’s goal with the new program is to address the global need for workers skilled in servicing, diagnosing, repairing and installing wind turbines and other associated equipment.

The program will allow students to learn at their own pace, and is supported seven days a week by tutorial and technical staff, and offers flexible payment options with a low initial registration fee.

Some courses can be purchased as students work through them.The total cost is $1,750 for the entire program.

The course will be delivered in partnership with George Brown College in Toronto. George Brown College is a leader in distance learning, and one program highlight will be its 3D interactive wind turbine simulator. The wind turbine simulator will have key features like real-time visualization, interactive operation, pre-built lab projects, and Pitch and Yaw Ladder Logic applications, which shows how Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are used to provide automatic control of wind turbines.

“The programs we develop at George Brown College feature robust technical simulation software so we can reach different students, like those looking to diversify their skills and can’t attend full time because of family or work commitments,” Colin Simpson, dean of continuous learning, says in a news release. “Additionally, our partnership with University of Houston-Downtown allows us to extend our reach to help train the U.S. clean energy workforce.”

According to Global Wind Energy Council’s Global Wind Report 2023, over half a million new wind technicians will be needed by 2026 to service the expected capacity increases, as wind generation is expected to more than double by 2030. Texas produces 26 percent of all U.S. wind-sourced electricity.

“Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world, and as the largest wind producer in the United States, there is a growing need for skilled technicians in Texas,” UHD President Loren J. Blanchard adds. “By partnering with George Brown College, we’re able to leverage a unique online program to develop a skilled workforce for the wind energy sector in the state and beyond.”

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