Consulting & Engineering: Renewable Energy Practice

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Gold Medal ► Global engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company, Bechtel (San Francisco) for rapidly growing its business in renewable power, including playing the vital EPC role in BrightSource's 377 MW Ivanpah project, one of the world's largest concentrating solar power (CSP) projects, and NRG's California Valley Solar Ranch-at 250 MW, one of the world's largest solar PV projects and one whose design and construction are complicated by the use of motor-driven trackers that follow the sun.

Ranked by Engineering News-Record as the largest U.S. construction contractor for the last 14 years, Bechtel (pronounced BEK-tl) generated $32.9 billion in revenues in 2011 and gained new contract awards valued at $53 billion, according to the privately held firm's website. Engineering and building power plants is a significant part of the company's business, and Bechtel has ranked #1 U.S. power contractor for 14 years as well.

According to a fall 2012 CCBJ Q&A with Bechtel's President for Renewable Power Jim Ivany, Bechtel was drawn to the renewable power market by the vastly increasing size of utility-scale projects. "These large-scale projects beg for an EPC contractor that has the stability and expertise to deliver, with certainty of outcome, the results that are expected not only from the owners but also from the financial community that's betting on the results."

While CSP and PV projects don't require the same level of millwright and other craft labor skills that Bechtel's more typical power projects do-in gas, coal and nuclear technology-the volume of components and the acreage covered by the solar projects like Ivanpah and Catalina require intensive logistical planning and materials management to ensure sure items arrive in the proper order and at the proper time. "When you're talking about a million solar panels, it's pretty important they arrive when they're needed," said Ivany. Bechtel's extensive track record building transmission also positions the firm well to build needed interconnections between remote renewable projects and high-voltage transmission networks.

Ivany says Bechtel has begun using its massive global sourcing capabilities-it directly buys about $20 billion worth of plant, equipment and materials annually-to work with manufacturers on "constructability reviews" that will make PV and CSP equipment easier to install, thereby driving costs out of the on-site construction process. "When you're in an environment like California where skilled construction labor is costing you $70 and hour, being more efficient in the field will significantly reduce the capital cost of the plant," said Ivany.

In wind power, Bechtel's sweet spot will be large facilities in difficult locations as well as offshore projects, first in the UK and Germany, then other markets. "We think the Mid-Atlantic U.S. will afford opportunities for us downstream, although that market is lagging a little bit just because of the politics."

Gold MedalSAIC (Mclean, Va.) for robust growth of its renewable energy practice, which has approximately doubled in the last two years as states, provinces and countries continue to support renewable energy development to diversify their power asset mix and reduce emissions from electric power generation. SAIC has provided business-oriented technical consulting and independent engineering services for more than 130 wind projects, including projects up to more than 800 MW in capacity, and for several dozen utility-scale solar power projects. The firm has also worked on numerous biomass and geothermal projects.

Some of SAIC's projects in 2012 included acting as independent engineer for a multi-billion dollar solar and wind portfolio project in Canada that will generate more than 650 MW of renewable energy; Seigneurie de Beaupré's ongoing $850 million, 271.8MW wind project that was named a Project Finance Deal of the Year; the 845 MW Shepherds Flat wind project that was completed in late 2012 and is one of the largest onshore wind projects in the world; AES Solar's $636 million, 200 MW-AC Mount Signal Solar project in Imperial County, Calif.; LS Power's 170 MW-AC Centinela Solar Energy project in California and 127 MW-AC Arlington Valley Solar Energy II.