Exploring opportunities in power and energy

August 2009 » Exclusive
Paul Capell

Q: What are the different segments of the power and energy market (P&E), including related services?

The segments are: generation, including wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, and small hydro; transmission lines; substation; and collector stations.

The services required for this work include road design and permitting, site civil design, electrical design, foundation design, geotechnical engineering, surveying, and stormwater/oil containment.

Q: Who is doing which type of work?

Civil engineering firms are doing the road design, site civil, foundations, and geotechnical engineering for renewable energy generation projects. The original equipment manufacturer is normally responsible for the installation of the generation equipment.

Services required in the power and energy market include road design and permitting, site civil design, electrical design, foundation design, geotechnical engineering, surveying, and stormwater/oil containment

Utility transmission lines and substations are typically designed by consulting engineering firms that are made up of electrical and civil engineers with electric power delivery capabilities.

Q: Are they primes or subcontractors?

Both, depending upon the magnitude of the projects and whether or not the project goes engineer, procure, and construct (EPC). Engineering consulting firms regularly partner on large utility generation and transmission projects to provide the depth of experience required to complete the project successfully. For EPC projects, the engineering consulting firms normally subcontract the construction contractor.

Q: Who are the primes and subs?

Firms that are minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and emerging small businesses tend to be the subcontractors on these projects. Prime firms are typically large firms that have the depth and breadth of experience, including Black & Veatch, Power Engineers, HDR, and ECI.

Q: How are these projects funded?

Projects are funded by investor-owned utilities, government allocation, and private investments.

Q: Who are the key players in the P&E market?

The key players in energy are large and small utilities (such as Pacific Gas and Electric, Bonneville Power Administration, and Arizona Public Service) and renewable energy developers (Iberdrola, Acciona, Horizon, and BP Alternative ).

Q: Where do you find out about potential P&E clients?

We meet clients at industry tradeshows, conferences, connections through attorneys, and by referral. We also rely very heavily on established relationships with the utilities because many of the utilities have cut back training and conference budgets in an effort to control expenses.

Q: What P&E associations should we be involved with?

Some industry trade associations include Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., Substation Committee; American Wind Energy Association; American Solar Energy Society; and Association of Energy Engineers.

Paul Capell is a vice president of the energy business unit at David Evans and Associates, Inc. He can be reached at pcapell@deainc.com.


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