In February 2017, seventeen members of the Apex team joined more than 300 representatives of the wind energy industry in Washington, DC, for the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Wind Power on Capitol Hill event. Together with landowners, turbine manufacturers, construction workers, and other wind industry professionals from 40 states, we headed to the Hill to share the message that wind energy benefits rural and Rust Belt America. At a time when job creation is one of our nation’s top priorities, it is important that our elected officials understand the role the wind industry is already playing to support this end. Today, wind energy employs 100,000 U.S. workers, has ample room to grow further, and needs stable policy to continue to do so.
The two-day event kicked off with a “Wind Works for America” rally that was attended by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Representatives David Young (R-IA) and Jodey Arrington (R-TX). The following day, participants were matched up with congressional staff offices for small-group discussions. More than 200 meetings were held, almost half of them with members of Congress.
We wanted to share the reflections of a few of the Apex team members who participated in #WindontheHill. Though our stories are all unique, our commitment to bringing wind energy to rural America is communal and runs deep.
Blaine Loos, Project Developer
“Wind energy is rural economic development” was AWEA’s message for the day, but my experience was that it’s so much more than that. In one particular meeting with a senator’s staff, there were representatives from project development, manufacturing, construction, and operations—people spanning the entire value chain of what we do. Wind offers benefits for every kind of person, regardless of education level, political party, or population density of your hometown. Some of our country’s leaders latch on to the benefits quickly; for others, it takes a bit more work, but with such a wide range of individuals represented by the industry, it doesn’t take long to find a connection between wind, a community, and its leaders. Everyone can find some benefit from wind energy, and I think that was the true message of the day.
Kristina Parker, Executive Associate
Prior to joining Apex, my knowledge of the wind industry was similar to most people’s. I knew that wind was a clean, renewable energy source, but I didn’t know how much of it was already in place in the United States and how much is being developed, and I wasn’t too aware of the other amazing benefits that come with a nonpolluting energy source. Learning about the 100,000 jobs that wind energy has created in this country, the significant tax revenue it brings to small, struggling communities, and the financial difference the industry is making was eye-opening and thrilling! Apex not only produces clean energy, but it has also brought hundreds of jobs to my city and the country at large.
Visiting Capitol Hill and representing Apex and the industry as a whole to my Virginia state representative and senators offered me the opportunity to share my new understanding of wind energy with others who may only know about the environmental benefits, and not the jobs-and-economics side of the story. Throughout the two-day event, I gained more confidence sharing my story and those of others who have been touched by the renewables industry. I hope that everyone, at one time or another, has the chance to have a direct conversation with their elected officials. Whether they agree or disagree with my position, my voice was important to them.
Albert Jongewaard, Public Affairs Manager
Having the opportunity to walk the halls of Congress and represent Apex Clean Energy during AWEA’s day on the Hill was an honor and source of personal pride. In fact, it dovetailed nicely with the general sense of excitement and purpose I have felt since joining the Apex team in November 2016.
In accepting my role with the company, I understood that there are very real forces organized in their effort to cast doubt and foment opposition to renewable energy projects involving wind and solar in this country. In fact, this was one of the motivating forces that led me to pursue a position with Apex in the first place—I wanted to lend my efforts to combatting the negative spin while helping shape positive public opinion around the development of wind energy in middle America.
Given the realities of the abhorrent obstacles we face, it is important for Apex to continue building relationships and trust with decision makers at all levels of government—a trust that is often earned the hard way, through one-on-one interaction and open communication. These personal interactions and conversations with members of Congress, key staff, and new colleagues from throughout the industry were tremendously valuable. #Windworks for rural America, and I am already putting the relationships formed in Washington to work on behalf of Apex projects in the upper Midwest.
Ed du Moulin, Business Development Associate
As a former AWEA employee, I first must acknowledge the Wind Power on Capitol Hill 2017 organizers for doing an incredible job rallying and exciting the record number of event attendees, and for arming us with the necessary statistics, tools, and tactics to defend ourselves, our company, and our industry in an era of political upheaval and uncertainty. It was particularly exciting and rewarding to meet with senators, representatives, and Hill staffers and share our corporate success stories, namely all of the economic development benefits that our wind projects bring to local communities, such as a steady income source for farmers, an increase in tax revenue to support schools and community projects, and much more.
In our meeting with Thomas Garrett, the freshman representative from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, Rep. Garrett asked questions on topics ranging from wildlife issues to grid integration and energy storage issues, and he seemed genuinely interested in learning from Apex about good project development practices, our personal and professional stories, and economic development opportunities in rural communities, specifically in respect to our wind projects under development in Virginia.
As a six-year Army veteran, Rep. Garrett was also very interested in operations at our Remote Operations Control Center (ROCC) in Charlottesville, and its being staffed with many veterans working in 24-hour shifts to monitor our fleet of operational turbines. As Apex is one of the larger employers in his district, it is my hope that Representative Garrett will visit the Apex offices and our ROCC facility and continue the dialogue on renewables that was started at AWEA’s Wind Power on Capitol Hill.
The Apex team did a fantastic job representing our industry’s legislative priorities, and I am looking forward to another opportunity to speak on behalf of Apex’s and my own political principles.