I am very happy and proud that someone from Springfield would be in the forefront of financing nonburning forms of alternative energy. The lady is amazing. I am sad that the project is in Nevada and not Illinois. But the saddest part for me is that the company she works for is based in Spain and they don’t manufature their products in Springfield. When ever will US companies wake up to the fact that we are being left out of the New Economy?
Published Sunday, February 24, 2008
Springfield native finds energy in projects
A 20-year career in financing of energy projects wasn’t exactly what SUSAN DONATH NICKEY had in mind while attending high school at the former Ursuline Academy in Springfield in the mid-1970s. That career — including her role in a $266 million financing package for the world’s third-largest solar energy plant in Nevada — has landed her on a couple of national lists in the past year of women executives who have helped lead the way in development of wind, biofuels and solar energy. Last month, Women’s eNews, an independent online news service, named Nickey one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” on energy issues.
“I’m very optimistic after watching this industry through a lot of stops and starts,” said Nickey, now based in Chicago as chief financial officer for Acciona Energy North America. The company, based in Spain, world’s largest developers of wind, solar and other alternative energy projects.Nickey has helped arrange a variety of private-equity financing for alternative energy projects during four years with the company, but the commercial-scale Nevada Solar One is among the largest and most ambitious.The plant relies on a network of 180,000 solar panels covering the space of approximately 200 football fields to supply power to 14,000 Nevada homes. It took about a year-and-a-half to complete construction.
Nickey said Nevada is among a growing list of states, including Illinois, that have mandated increased use of alternative fuels. Traditional utilities in Nevada also were given incentives for long-term contracts for purchases of solar power.
Of course, Nevada has other advantages when it comes to solar energy.
“The sun shines a lot there,” Nickey said.
Nickey, whose father, Robert, still lives in the Springfield neighborhood where she grew up, graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1978 and the University of Notre Dame in 1983. She soon found herself in banking and energy financing after obtaining her graduate degree from Georgetown University.
“Early on, I had opportunities to work on energy projects, and that made the transition easy when the independent power industry began to develop,” said Nickey, who added that she returns to Springfield as often as possible.
On March 6, she’ll be among the panelists at the Union League Club of Chicago on ways to “Make Green from Green.” The Charter Financial Analysts of Chicago and the CFA (Cultivating Female Ambition) advisory group are sponsoring the event.
Long stretches of gloomy weather, especially in winter, make the Midwest a tougher sell for solar power. But Nickey said she has been encouraged by the steady progress of wind energy, including in Illinois.
Acciona also is among the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines.
“It’s the states that are driving the growth in renewable energy… they keep adding mandatory (energy) portfolio standards,” Nickey said.
“There’s always been a large group of European lenders active in the business, and they still are years and years ahead of us. Now, there are a lot of equity investors that see that growth her
Tim Landis is the business editor of The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 788-1536.
And What Has Susan Financed? Well lets see 300 acres of Solar Panels.