Take a Walk in Our Shoes

An Apexer Details His Journey Through the Energy Transition

Growing up, I spent a lot of time exploring my family’s farm in southwestern Minnesota, just miles from some of the first pioneering wind farms on the Buffalo Ridge. I dreamed about when it would be our turn for wind. On blustery summer days, my grandpa and I would ride around the farm on the four-wheeler trying to decide which spot was the windiest. To us, the answer was obvious: a high point on a small ridge right next to a bend in the field road.

I never imagined working in renewable energy, but I knew I had a passion for public service and growing communities. As a result, after graduating from the University of Minnesota, I was elected to represent my hometown in the Minnesota House of Representatives. After four years serving in the legislature, I knew I wanted to join a company that not only was making a difference in the lives of people and communities, but also had a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship. I found that—and more—at Apex Clean Energy.

We completed projects where others had failed, we partnered when others faltered on their own, and we used our creativity to solve problems others could not.

Apex was founded in 2009, a decade before I joined the team. Already, in just ten years, the company had grown from a scrappy start-up with a bold mission into a leading clean energy company pushing the bounds of the energy transition. I’d quickly learn the secret to that swift growth: it’s about being willing to do hard things. It’s about a never-give-up, never-say-die attitude. It’s having a team of absolute experts to troubleshoot and find a path to success. And it’s a steadfast commitment to partnering with communities, landowners, and partners to ensure projects don’t just accelerate the shift to clean energy, but also accelerate careers and opportunities in project areas.

What Creating Partnerships Is All About

It’s easy to talk about the financial impact that wind and solar projects have on a project area. And, make no mistake, the numbers are large and they are compelling. They should, and do, matter. But it’s about more than dollars in rural America. Communities don’t just want economic development; they want economic partners—people and companies who will stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, to bring economic resiliency and revitalization to America’s heartland.

That is why, time and time again, I’ve seen communities and landowners choose to partner with Apex. We enter a community not with pre-cast solutions, but with a listening ear. We open an office, usually on Main Street, and put up a sign that not only labels the project office, but figuratively stands in the gap and says: “We are here, we are here to stay, and we are going to become a part of the fabric of your community.”

During the early, most difficult days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apex delivered weekly meals from local restaurants to health care professionals in project areas. This had the dual effect of thanking frontline workers and financially supporting local restaurants whose businesses had been devastated. We broadcast these efforts in the community in the hopes of encouraging our Main Street peers to do more of the same. Since 2017, Apex has donated over $2.56 million to support organizations around the country working to build healthy communities, create economic opportunity, encourage environmental sustainability, and promote education.

This commitment to true partnership with communities and to our entrepreneurial spirit is how Apex grew. We completed projects where others had failed, we partnered when others faltered on their own, and we used our creativity to solve problems others could not. In the early and middle days, we needed to carve out a niche for ourselves against competitors who could offer a larger balance sheet and greater access to capital.

meteorological tower in a cornfield
An Apex met tower measures the wind.

Today, because of these efforts, our growth, and our partnerships, we’re a major player in the industry. As one of our partners, Ozone Renewables, put it: “We chose Apex to help advance our projects because they have the capital, resources, and developer mindset to see large-scale renewable energy projects from the earliest stages through to completion. In a market where there are many participants, we feel it is beneficial to align ourselves with an industry leader with an extensive track record of developing large-scale solar and wind in the United States.”

When I joined Apex, we had already found our foothold as a developer of highly complex projects. Now that we have the capital to truly drive the evolution of the energy transition, our commitment to communities and our unmatched ability to execute projects define us. Our entrepreneurship and creativity are distinctive and essential to our success. Though earned through much adversity, these traits are what now allow us to charge forward, delivering best-in-class projects and accelerating the shift to clean energy.

Oh, and that high point next to a bend in the road on the family farm? Today, there’s an Apex meteorological tower standing tall, measuring the wind, and preparing us to build another project and revitalize another community. There’s no company I’d rather be working with to do it.

Authors

Drew Christensen

Director, Public Engagement

Drew works to assess project risk, builds partnerships with local officials and communities, and leads a team of public engagement professionals across the central region of the country. Prior to joining Apex, he served two terms as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing his hometown.