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
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.
Keeping lines of communication open is key to controlling costs and managing construction schedules in today’s social distancing/working remotely environment. Ulteig engineers are regularly onsite with our clients to collaborate on project details and work through design challenges in person and look forward to working that way again soon. In the meantime, we’re providing our clients with complimentary online access to their project information, anytime and anywhere, whether they’re in the office, in a trailer, or onsite.
To increase efficiency, improve quality and reduce risk during this pandemic and going forward, Ulteig engineers are working with clients utilizing the BIM 360™ cloud-based document management system. By leveraging this software internally and externally with our clients, we are able to collaborate throughout the design and construction of projects with computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) schematics, drawings and documents through the BIM 360™portal on a computer and/or through an app on a tablet or smartphone. Using this collaborative system virtually eliminates the need for communicating via emails on a project. This unique value-added benefit gives the client’s remote team instant access to designs, project details, and documents while reviewing construction plans (with versions, edits and times clearly marked) whenever and wherever necessary to keep the project flowing and their staff working effectively.
What if a client uses a different cloud-based system?
Ulteig has found that BIM 360™ platform is a great tool for design coordination and collaboration as it allows our clients, as well as other required organizations access to project information quickly and efficiently without additional fees or licenses subscriptions. Clients may already utilize a different platform like Procore®, SharePoint®, or Box.com., which Ulteig has and is willing to support to ensure collaborative page turns and quality reviews.
Creating technical solutions to meet current business challenges
Ulteig engineers use BIM 360™ to organize, distribute, and share documents with project teams in real-time. By using this cloud-based management platform, our engineers can circulate designs and collaborate with project stakeholders anytime and anywhere to help keep everyone in sync throughout the project.
Author: Chris Smaaladen, PE, M. ASCE, Technical Manager
Developing and maintaining effective partnerships has been at the cornerstone of Ulteig’s identity for more than seventy-five years. With today’s rapidly changing marketplace, Ulteig remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the solutions and innovative ideas you need to navigate through these tumultuous times.
Social distancing and stay-at-home requirements have forced trade show cancellations and travel plan disruptions. But while in-person meetings and events are not taking place, vital industry conversations must continue. That’s why we’re introducing a new “Energy & Infrastructure” 8-part podcast series. Our goal is simple: to inspire you, through new ideas and conversations, to think differently about industry challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial crisis.
The new series, spanning our Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation and Water, offers thought-provoking and engaging conversations with key industry stakeholders on technology, innovation, policy and funding. There will also be lively discussion mixed in about the latest hot button issues facing our industries.
In our first podcast, “Lessons Learned from 2009: Be Prepared for a COVID-19 Infrastructure Stimulus Package,” Aaron Lauinger, Market Director at Ulteig, examines infrastructure investments in 2020. This discourse addresses how stimulus funding could incubate and modernize infrastructure or be lost or exasperated if companies do not prepare ahead of time. The stimulus’s potential impact on transportation, water, and renewables sectors is also covered.
The second podcast continues the discussion of COVID-19 with special guest Dan Whitten, VP of Public Affairs, SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), as we focus on what a repeat of the 2009 ARRA Renewable Tax Credits would do for the industry (as 09 ARRA catapulted renewables) and SEIA’s strategy for federal stimulus. Future podcasts will include discussions with industry leaders on smart grids, battery storage, USACE stimulus flooding and much more.
Ulteig remains committed to being a thoughtful and innovative partner for our clients. We hope the Energy & Infrastructure podcast series provides the insights and creative ideas you need to overcome the COVID-19 crisis now and afterward as we face what will more than likely be a changed landscape.
Meeting the commissioning and testing requirements of a project’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system can be demanding due to current social distancing protocols. For Ulteig, performing SCADA integration for clients traditionally involves sending engineers to project locations throughout the U.S. to verify the full functionality of the final systems necessary to connect to the grid. But due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions and “stay at home” safety requirements, that’s a less desirable solution.
On a recent project for a generation owner in Texas, Ulteig implemented a remote solution to handle the requirements of the job. Ulteig engineers worked with the asset owner to deploy a laptop–accessible by Ulteig–to the project site. They then worked one-on-one with onsite personnel to connect to individual devices to program, troubleshoot and access the site’s Local Area Network.
The key to Ulteig’s solution was working with the asset owner to document the cybersecurity and malware management Standard Operating Procedures. The remote laptop fits the definition of a Transient Cyber Asset under NERC-CIP-003-7, so the owner must implement plans to address “Transient Cyber Asset and Removable Media Malicious Code Risk Mitigation.” The integration was performed from a thousand miles away, and the utility was able to stay on track with their construction schedule.
Sending a laptop to the remote site was just one of the options developed to meet the needs of Ulteig clients. A renewable generation owner of a wind farm in Nebraska required SCADA integration completed to meet their Commercial Operation Date but wanted to minimize bringing new people onto the job site. Ulteig’s engineers worked with the owner’s IT department to establish a VPN connection to the project site.
Superior communication and coordination between critical staff already onsite (and all offtakers of data from the substation) were required to integrate the project remotely. This was an effective and safe solution, keeping unnecessary personnel offsite and avoiding travel.
Every company is dealing with business disruptions due to Coronavirus. And when this is all over, companies will get back to business as usual. Today, and in the years to come, Ulteig will continue to develop innovative solutions to meet the business needs of its clients.
Author: Seth Maslowski, Technical Manager