Through the decades, Ulteig has expanded our presence and adapted our expertise in industries that maintain infrastructure vital to everyday life. Our ability to create solutions to challenging project disruptions was one of the reasons why we were contracted as the project owner’s representative on a wind farm construction site in rural Texas.
Construction of the 160MW wind farm nearly halted when a contractor was unable to meet its obligation to install fiber optic lines at the site. This $150 million project, featuring 57 turbines, was at risk of being derailed. Ulteig started researching viable solutions to keep the project on track.
The local exchange carrier (LEC) available for the project was in bankruptcy, so their ability to perform and pay their subcontractors was difficult. After numerous failed attempts by the developer to contact the LEC vendor, the COD was at risk. Due to the relentless follow up and added pressure by an Ulteig Senior Project Manager, we were able to connect with the LEC and schedule installation of the fiber optic line with only a minor schedule disruption.
But that would not be the only problem our Ulteig team helped rectify on this enormous project. Compaction testing under one of the turbine foundations failed. Since tearing it out and doing it over was not a viable option, they once again reached out to Ulteig engineers for a solution. Using new technology with additional testing allowed the foundation to pass, keeping the wind farm project on track without any additional costs. The project was 97% completed at COD, with only one turbine needing re-machining for full functionality.
We meet the needs of our clients by offering a legacy of listening and solving as a vital strategic partner. That’s why owners and developers keep coming to Ulteig for solutions. We’re not just engineers or project managers—we’re consultants who can help solve your unique problems. And that includes dealing with force majeure events like COVID-19. We can help you develop risk mitigation and response protocols for situations like a coronavirus outbreak at a project site by developing process maps that outline how to respond to vendors or contractors who issue force majeure claims.
Ulteig’s dedication, integrity and commitment to excellence make us the partner of choice for technical solutions in Lifeline Sectors® for public and private clients throughout the country.
Author: Craig Couch, PgMP, PMP
A generation utility owner in Texas contacted us to help facilitate the completion of project panels before sending them to a buildout in the southwest United States. Due to a massive influx of work, the utility’s wire shop did not have the resources necessary to complete the panels in the original required timeframe. They reached out to Ulteig for assistance.
In the wire shop of this large utility, wiremen were tasked with pre-wiring, connecting protective relays and testing each panel to ensure it was functioning correctly before shipping and installing it in the substation protection enclosure. Any errors found could then be corrected in the shop, saving valuable time in the field.
Since Ulteig had worked with this client before and designed many of the panels they were working on for these collection of projects, it was a seamless transition for our engineers to step in to help ensure these system upgrades would be completed on schedule.
As a solution, our engineers reviewed projects being constructed to see if they could shuffle them around to help minimize the resourcing issues. We were able to identify several project panels that could be completed well ahead of the planned finish date, which allowed the wire shop to meet the desired deadline for all of the project panels and continue a steady stream of work during their normal down times. This change in schedule required Ulteig to complete their designs ahead of schedule but helped in optimizing the building and testing time in the wire shop.
As electric utilities are increasingly challenged to delivering reliable power to their customers, they need a partner like Ulteig who can provide customized solutions to tackle challenging demands and tight schedules.
Author: Wyatt Knepper, Technical Manager
Utility Dive recently reported on the state of the nation’s energy grid: “a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Energy concluded 70% of power transformers are 25 years of age or older, 60% of circuit breakers are 30 years or older and 70% of transmission lines are 25 years or older.”
As stress on the nation’s electrical grid accelerates, consumers and businesses will demand higher levels of reliability and resiliency as well as better customer service. These demands will combine with an increase in the growth of infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles in the years to come, and the penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) and load-side technologies.
Threats such as cyberterrorism and super storms are also likely to increase in the years ahead to put even more stress on our aging system. Energy companies will be pushed to ensure that our electrical grid is not only secure, but also has the resiliency to continue operating in the event of a catastrophe.
Because every utility is in a different position with their grid modernization efforts, it’s imperative that each system be uniquely evaluated to pinpoint high-risk areas that need improvement, and develop a hierarchical solution based on the priorities of the utility.
We recommend starting with a distribution-level study, which involves the collection of data and information to determine the overall reliability and resiliency of your grid. This study should include the following elements:
1. GIS and Electric System Model eview/development;
2. Reliability Metric Review (SAIDI, SAIFI, MAIFI); and
3. Existing Infrastructure and Asset Evaluation
A Geographic Information System (GIS) and power system analysis tool can be utilized to supplement these studies and the planning required at this stage to help prioritize the needs and components of the utility’s grid modernization initiatives.
After evaluating your system, analyze the results to determine which high-risk areas need to be addressed immediately to show improvements in the overall system. Using a tiered approach, risks should be classified from immediate/urgent to less urgent projects. Using a hierarchical approach allows a company to see the full spectrum of work that needs to be initiated to modernize its grid, with the intent of determining how much and when to spread out the modernization work.
After identifying risks, the next stage is to build a framework of specific projects, including new equipment and technology implementation. Costs must be included at this stage to create an analysis of projected system improvement value.
By taking these steps now, energy companies can set up the foundation for preparing to add DERs and new dynamic loads in the future, such as EV-charging stations, as well as preparing for a possible surge in stimulus funds to fund infrastructure projects.
Want to know more? Download Ulteig’s new white paper on modernizing the electrical grid — click here.
The future is here, now. Ulteig engineers are experts in planning and solving complex problems. Allow us to put our expertise to work in creating well-designed plans for implementing grid modernization.
Josh Guck brings nearly a decade of distribution engineering experience to Ulteig’s Power and Renewable markets. As the Grid Modernization lead, he is able to support clients throughout the US in developing innovative solutions to help navigate the fast-paced changes occurring in our industry.
Author: Josh Guck
Six questions you need to ask about your assets during times of uncertainty.
The global economic landscape is changing before our eyes, in unprecedented and possibly lasting ways. As we adapt to this new normal, businesses and public institutions in the industries of power generation, transportation systems, and renewable energy need to think of new ways of planning for future uncertainties.
This is why it’s paramount for organizations to quickly adapt to the shifting economic landscape by proactively seeking new and smarter ways of doing business. Now, more than ever, is the time to be nimble and flexible.
In these uncertain times, your business is likely enacting mitigation plans. But you still may be wondering if your assets are prepared for other scenarios or future unplanned outages and failures. With increased supply chain vulnerability and prioritizing capital spend, maturing an asset management plan or program can bring you a necessary dose of peace of mind.
As an exercise in preparedness, consider your answers to the questions below as leading indicators of how to drive predictability with your capital asset lifecycle:
- Is assessing critical assets, whether visually or with routine maintenance inspections, part of your normal process?
- Do you have critical assets identified and tracked and have you identified lead times for replacements?
- Are your maintenance needs funded to a reasonable level?
- Do you have the data to support and gain organizational buy-in to invest in new critical assets?
- Do your resources have devoted time set aside and are they prepared for disruptions to your critical asset infrastructure?
- Are you actively monitoring, and tracking failures or manufacturer recalls that could disrupt your fleet?
Regardless of how you answered the above questions, it’s more important than ever to take a deep dive into assessing and analyzing your organization’s critical assets. Our engineers are here to help you look ahead to what’s next. Not just the next quarter, or even the next year. But three, five and ten years down the road.
Together, with our expertise and yours, we will make the smart decisions today that will help to position your organization to nimbly handle and adapt to whatever comes next. We’ll help find the silver lining so that you can leverage the present to develop a leaner, more cost-efficient, and effective asset management strategy for the future.
Authors: Sarah Beckman and Matt Bates
As Program Director at Ulteig, Sarah Beckman collaborates with electric utilities to build strong, trusted relationships and to develop innovative solutions to address unique challenges. Sarah’s results-driven and strategic focus is founded on more than 15 years of experience in the Power Delivery industry in both the electric utility and renewables sectors.
Matt Bates has over a decade of experience in the Power and Renewable markets supporting Owners and Developers from early stage development through operations and maintenance. His role managing a multidisciplined team and supporting key client relationships helps him bring complete solutions to our changing industries.
Ulteig defines Asset Management as the data-driven, systematic tracking of key infrastructure elements to assess organizational risk, governing and automating capital spend. This solution benefits stakeholders’ priorities by taking quality data collection and inspection and provides a roadmap to maintenance and replacement, informing new infrastructure investments.
Ulteig talks with SEIA about the impact The ITC made into direct pay opportunities, the impacts of COVID-19 and the future of the solar market in this new world.
For the first few months of 2020, in what was widely considered “the kickoff” to the $500 billion+ solar decade, the COVID-19 crisis wreaked significant damage on the renewables sector. Thousands of jobs were lost and projects from coast to coast were in jeopardy.
How profound and widespread the impact will be is still uncertain, but there are reasons for optimism that the projects pushed to the right are simply delayed or deferred rather than canceled.
In our second installment of the “Energy & Infrastructure”podcastseries, host Aaron Lauinger, joined by Chad Crabtree, Renewables Market Director at Ulteig and Dan Whitten, Vice President of Public Affairs, Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the renewables sector and how a few simple policy changes to the federally funded Solar Investment Tax Credits (ITC) could rejuvenate the solar industry.
While disruptions to the global supply chain and hefty tariffs on equipment shipped from China were already causing problems, U.S. renewable energy companies are struggling to qualify for ITC. With a shrinking tax equity market in today’s less than stellar economic climate, revising this policy could ensure the renewables sector helps bolster the economy in 2020 as it did with the 2009 ARRA.
The energy economy is struggling, but Dan Whitten suggests merely revising the ITC into a direct pay opportunity instead of having to get tax equity from a bank could make a big difference. It would have the same costs as the tax credit but would be delivered in cash, so projects wouldn’t have to shop around for tax equity.
A few weeks before coronavirus began disrupting daily life in the United States, it was wreaking havoc on the global supply chain, especially for products manufactured and shipped from China. A generation owner in southern Texas was notified that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its new substation breakers would not be delivered as promised. These breakers were instrumental for the in-servicing (energization) of their equipment. And with construction crews already onsite and more projects waiting in the queue, an extended delay in the multi-million-dollar project was not an option.
The generation owner did not have the in-house resources necessary to circumvent this logistics problem, so they turned to Ulteig for a solution.
Since Ulteig had a long-standing partnership with the client, engineers were familiar with their extensive energy operation and were able to quickly devise a plan to get a majority of their lines energized. The team developed several documents and schematics that identified the most critical pieces of equipment needed to energize each line. Then they brought the engineering, operation and construction teams to the table to discuss how to move forward.
As a solution, Ulteig engineers created a strategy that involved relocating existing substation breakers to critical lines so the majority of the lines could be energized. Since the project spanned over 5+ substations, they were able to re-direct the delayed breaker deliveries from China to other locations on the grid as arrival dates were staggered throughout the year.
Ulteig engineers were able to get the valuable line operational by piecing together which orders could be delivered in time for construction and creating drawings showing which equipment was critical to get installed. Construction crews are being kept productive and the client will be able to energize 95% of their assets on time.
At Ulteig, we listen carefully to a client’s unique business needs to help us develop real solutions that deliver true value.
Author: Wyatt Knepper, Technical Manager