Celebrating the Women behind the Samson Solar Energy Center
The 1,310-megawatt Samson Solar Energy Center, currently under construction in northeast Texas, is the latest example of Invenergy’s bold vision. The project breaks records and redefines sustainability in many ways—notably, upon completion in 2023, it will be the largest solar energy facility in North America. Not only is the project noteworthy for its scale and size, but also because of the women making it happen.
“It takes a large team to bring any project to life, and in this case for Samson, it takes a very large team to bring the largest solar project in the country to life,” says April Christensen, Senior Manager, Renewable Development, who is the lead developer of the project. “So it’s exciting to see that there are women at every level and in every department—from the management level to the implementation level, from development and project management to legal and environmental compliance—who are working on this project. I don’t think that’s something we would’ve seen in the industry even just a few years ago.”
Gender diversity in the global energy sector remains largely unbalanced, with women’s participation in the sector below that of the broader economy. Despite making up 48% of the global labor force, women only account for 22% of the labor force in the oil and gas sector and 32% in renewables, according to a survey conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
However, companies and industry organizations are increasingly taking significant steps to address the gender gap. Industry groups like WRISE and company affinity groups such as the Invenergy Women’s Network (IWN) have been instrumental in bringing attention to the issue and setting up programs for the professional development of women in the industry. These are also ways to demonstrate representation, which is critical to opening doors for and recruiting more women in the industry.
“There’s an added level of confidence when I see more women working on projects,” says Becca Albrecht, Analyst, Finance and Capital Markets. Albrecht felt more inspired about working in the industry after she read some interviews with high-level project leaders at Invenergy, and now, working on project finance for the Samson project, she is proud to share in that example.
The level of representation has resonated with the women working on the project. There is a shared sense of commitment and pride that there are so many women who get to work and learn together on one of Invenergy's major projects.
A $1.6 billion capital investment, the project brings together a record number of leading consumer brands and local municipalities to support their renewable energy goals and deliver clean, cost-effective and reliable power to the grid. Samson Solar also represents an unprecedented economic development opportunity, creating jobs and delivering economic benefits to the home communities of Red River, Lamar, and Franklin Counties, which together have a population of roughly 73,000 people.
“Engaged landowners and supportive rural communities are the foundation of any large-scale renewable energy project,” says Christensen. “By providing another revenue stream to local farmers and ranchers, we are helping to support the local agricultural economy. Having come from a rural farming background myself, this impact is what I am most proud of.”
Over the life of the project, an estimated $450 million will be directly invested in the local economy. Residents will benefit in multiple ways, including lease payments to participating landowners and new tax revenues.
In summer of 2020, Invenergy broke ground on the first phase of the Samson Solar project, at which point Kate Woodson, Senior Project Manager, took the reins. Responsible for all things construction, Woodson oversees the management of contractors, engineering partners, and equipment suppliers to ensure the smooth, safe and successful completion of the project. She manages a large team of both Invenergy colleagues and external contractors to ensure the smooth and successful construction of the project.
“The successful execution of a project of this magnitude is an exciting process, not without its challenges,” says Woodson. “Being an integral part of a women-led, groundbreaking solar project has surely been a career highlight.”
The outsized scope of the project lends itself to the occasional complication, but many working on the project credit the diverse voices on the team with addressing these problems successfully.
“We are a very collaborative team, we respect each other, we value each other’s expertise and opinion, and we’ve seen that across all our teams working on Samson,” says Jamie Wilson, Manager, Environmental Compliance and Strategy.
The experience, visibility, and mentorship opportunities that come with working on Samson will help women continue breaking barriers, make a lasting impact, and pave the way for more women to succeed in the sustainable energy industry.
“It’s pretty amazing to be able to say you’re on a team largely made up of women,” says Elizabeth Collier, Senior Staff Engineer. “There are not a lot of women in the industry, and I think it’s a very important thing to highlight.”
Invenergy is excited to bring this project to fruition and could not have gotten to where we are today without our extraordinary woman-led team and many others. This is a group of exceptional individuals and exceptional communities, working together to realize the most ambitious solar project in American history.