By Tawnya Plain Eagle
Files from Lethbridge College.
Enel Green Power has partnered with Lethbridge College to create opportunities in renewable energy for Indigenous learners in southern Alberta.
The unique collaboration is designed to support the education of students from the Piikani Nation who are interested in pursuing careers in wind energy.
“This is truly collaboration at work,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO.
“Enel Green Power is deeply committed to making a difference in the communities where they are located. Their work in creating opportunities for Piikani Nation learners matches our commitment to Indigenous learning, and we thank them for seeing the potential in this unique partnership.”
The partnership sees Enel Green Power working with Lethbridge College’s Wind Turbine Technician (WTT) program to develop opportunities for Piikani learners, including supporting the college’s Indigenous Circle of Services programming, creating student awards and developing experiential learning opportunities for Piikani Nation community members.
“It is our great honor to collaborate with Lethbridge College in support of our local partner, the Piikani Nation,” said Georgios Papadimitriou, Head of Enel Green Power in the US and Canada.
“At Enel Green Power, we are committed to developing truly sustainable projects that engage the entire community in creating shared value. We are grateful for our long-term relationship with the Piikani Nation and are eager to open up new career pathways for Piikani learners.”
Enel Green Power operates a 210 MW portfolio of wind farms in Pincher Creek including the Castle Rock Ridge I & II and Riverview wind farms, the first of which began operations in 2012.
Acknowledging that their projects are located on traditional Blackfoot territory, Enel Green Power has worked directly with the college and the Piikani Nation to develop this partnership. Highlights of the $100,000 USD agreement include:
- Creating “experiential learning days” for students of Piikani Secondary School, other Livingstone Range School Division institutions and Piikani Nation mature learners, which will provide the opportunity to visit Lethbridge College and learn more about both the WTT program and other college programming and services.
- Student awards for the WTT program directed to support graduating Piikani Nation, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
- Engaging Piikani Nation youth through experiential opportunities in the WTT program, co-developed by Enel and Lethbridge College, including: safety training in the college’s wind turbine shop; experience climbing in a wind turbine nacelle; standing on top of a wind turbine using virtual reality (VR) technology; building miniature wind turbines at school that are then tested in the college’s wind tunnel; and development of a VR tour of the college’s nacelle that can be accessed at Piikani Secondary School through the donation of two VR headsets.
“Partnerships like this will have tremendous benefits for aspiring Piikani Nation members interested in the electricity industry,” says Doane Crow Shoe, Piikani Nation Councilor.
“Education is important, and we appreciate the efforts of Enel and the Lethbridge College Wind Turbine Technician program for supporting our Piikani Nation students. Clean energy is our future; we will continue to support the efforts in which our members will learn and promote renewable energy. It is my hope that this collaboration will improve how Indigenous communities can be a part of the evolving energy sector.”
Enel’s commitment to the well-being of the community was also highlighted by a $10,000 contribution to the Town of Pincher Creek Family and Community Support Services, and a $10,000 contribution to the Piikani Nation Emergency Package to support COVID-19 response efforts in the community.
“It’s inspiring to see a company become involved with our community in this way,” says Lowell Yellowhorn, a Piikani Nation community member, former Piikani Nation councilor and Lethbridge College Indigenous Student Support and Experience coordinator.
“As a community member, I appreciate Enel Green Power’s commitment to working with our community, inspiring our youth and perhaps inspiring our community members to pursue career opportunities. This is a partnership that will have long term benefits to the Piikani Nation.”
A career as a wind turbine technician was the path followed by Piikani Nation member Otys Potts-Little Mustache, who graduated from the college’s Wind Turbine Technician program in 2014.
He appreciates this partnership and the opportunities it will create for Piikani Nation members.
“Oki niisto niitaniiko iinukhsiipiistoo. I was born and raised on the Piikani nation. I am very proud of being part of the second class to have completed the Wind Turbine Technician program,” says Potts-Littlemustache.
“It has taken me from working close to home to the highlands of Scotland, Pennsylvania and a few places in between. The partnership between Lethbridge College and Enel will assist our youth along with others to explore education and employment in the wind energy sector and beyond.”
Lethbridge College’s Wind Turbine Technician certificate program is nationally recognized and designed to meet international certification standards, preparing graduates to write competency exams as well as the first period Electrician Apprenticeship provincial exam. Many graduates find employment immediately following graduation.
Enel Green Power is a leading developer, long-term owner and operator of renewable energy plants with a presence in 18 US states and Alberta. The company operates around 70 plants with a managed capacity of over 6 GW powered by hydro, wind, geothermal and solar energy.