ACEC Weekly NewsLine
June 29, 2011

Water

Small Hydropower Projects Provide Affordable Energy

Transportation

Utah Panel OKs Rural Road Plan for Next 30 Years

Other

EPA Budget Cuts Put States in a Bind




Energy

NRG, ProLogis Embark On Rooftop Solar Project
Wall Street Journal (06/23/11) Sweet, Cassandra

NRG Energy Inc. and ProLogis Inc. are embarking on a four-year, $2.6 billion project to place solar panels on rooftops in 28 states, one of the most ambitious clean-energy projects in recent years. The project is designed to generate about 733 megawatts of energy, enough to serve more than 100,000 homes, the companies said. The installations will be built on facilities owned by ProLogis, a warehouse operator, and co-owned by NRG. The deal allows ProLogis, which owns 400 million square feet of warehouses across the U.S., to convert its rooftops into small power plants spread across the country. The companies plan to sell the solar power to utilities. The large size of the project "allows us to bring the price [of solar power] down," says Drew Torbin, head of renewable energy at ProLogis. Bank of America Merrill Lynch will provide $1.4 billion in loans for the project, the largest financing package assembled for a U.S. rooftop solar-power project. The U.S. Department of Energy has offered the companies a $1.4 billion loan guarantee to help finance the project. NRG plans to start construction this summer on the first installation, a 15-megawatt rooftop solar-panel project in southern California that will provide electricity to Edison International's electric utility. NRG, which operates a fleet of conventional power plants, also has a growing solar power business, primarily large solar farms. The company wants to expand into rooftop solar power and has been looking for something larger than the typical "one-off deals" when the project with ProLogis and Bank of America came along. "This moves distributed generation to a new level," says NRG Chief Financial Officer Christian Schade. Other projects are likely to be installed in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, and other states, most of which have renewable energy requirements for utilities.

Funding For U.S. Solar Power Projects Rising
Investor's Business Daily (06/22/11) Howell, Donna

Banks, as well as a big business, are funding U.S. solar power projects to diversify and boost returns in today's low interest rate environment, for what they deem a decent risk. Borrego Solar Systems reported on June 21 that U.S. Bank and Southern California's East West Bank are financing more than $100 million of its commercial and utility solar projects. Earlier in June, Google announced $280 million in corporate financing for home installations by SolarCity. The deals let the lenders take a 30 percent tax credit for what they spend, this year as an upfront grant, plus get an income stream from projects they finance. Customers often pay on a power purchase agreement or system lease. The more interest in funding solar the better for developers, says Bill Bush, Borrego's chief financial officer, though he does not see a rush of firms following Google's lead. "I think it's a positive any time where you have more competition — as a developer, the cost of equity should go down," Bush says. "Though I think Google is probably a very different company than a lot of other places, so I don't know how repeatable that model is," adding that firms getting into solar funding for the 30 percent tax credit would need to have enough steady profit over years to not waste it. Banks went hunting for safe returns in the wake of the investment banking crisis and credit crunch. Borrego's more than $100 million in bank financing consists of a new $46 million round atop $56 million from the banks in recent months. SolarCity has mounted over $1.25 billion in funds since 2008, with banks, utility owners and Google. U.S. Bank started investing in solar in 2008. It has formed funds with both SolarCity and Borrego. "It's an attractive investment first from a yield perspective, second from a credit risk perspective — and it's good to be investing in renewable energy from a public policy standpoint," says Darren Van't Hof, U.S. Bank's director of renewable energy investments.
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After Almost 50 Years of Service, Florida Power and Light's Power Plant Is No More
WPTV 5 (Fla.) (06/19/11) Flynn, Liz

Demolition crews destroyed Florida Power and Light's oil-burning plant on Riviera Beach June 19 to make room for a new, natural-gas facility. The plant had been providing power to South Florida for nearly 50 years. Demolition crews have been working for months to prepare for the plant's implosion and minimize its impact. In its place, FP&L plans to build a new, $1-billion facility that may provide about 650 construction jobs in the area. "It's going to be a lot more efficient," said FP&L Spokesman Neil Nissan, "using 33 percent less fuel and that's going to translate into millions of dollars in fuel savings for our customers over the life of the plant." FP&L expects the new plant to be operational by 2014, providing power to more than 250,000 homes and businesses.
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TVA Works on a Plan for Small Reactors
Associated Press (06/18/11)

The Tennessee Valley Authority has signed a letter of intent to become the country's first electricity provider to construct small modular nuclear reactors. According to the utility and Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy subsidiary Generation mPower, the letter was signed at the end of May and details the plans for building up to six mini reactors at TVA's vacant Clinch River site, west of Knoxville. The utility is considering development of a single small reactor to begin operating by 2020, according to TVA spokesman Terry Johnson. Johnson says each reactor could generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes. Generation mPower president and chief executive Ali Azad says TVA plans to apply for a construction permit in 2012 and Generation mPower will apply for design certification in 2013. The small reactors would be 80 feet tall and 15 feet wide, weighing more than 500 tons before being loaded with fuel. TVA's COO Bill McCollum says the utility sees "unique benefits that small modular reactor technology can present to the nuclear industry in the areas of economics and safety." The move is part of the utility's long-term plan to decrease its reliance on coal and increase its use of nuclear power, renewable energy, natural gas, hydroelectric, and conservation. TVA notes that a mini reactor could help provide power to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy operations, potentially making it eligible for federal funding.
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Land/Buildings

South Florida Buildings Aiming for Green Standard
Miami Herald (06/27/11) Viglucci, Andres

In South Florida's competitive upscale office market, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is becoming essential for owners, managers, and developers looking to tout their buildings as "green." In the past four years, a total of 98 civic and commercial buildings and interiors throughout the region -- ranging from schools to retail stores to new and retrofitted office buildings -- have become LEED certified, with many more in the pipeline. LEED certification is no longer just an option for major developers in Miami. The city's Miami 21 zoning overhaul, which went into effect in 2010, requires large buildings in and around downtown to be certified at least LEED Silver. In turn, local engineering and architectural firms have scrambled to get their professionals trained in LEED design to keep up with current market trends. William Holly, who developed Miami's first LEED-certified new office tower, remarks, "It's unbelievable how much the world has changed in three years. . . . Now many national and international brokers are saying that in the very near future you will not be considered a Class A building if you aren't green, if you're not LEED-certified." LEED certification does not come cheap, though. The registration, review, and certification process alone can cost approximately $30,000 for a building with more than 50,000 square feet. Furthermore, the expense of LEED compliance increases total building costs between 2 percent and 10 percent over conventional construction depending on the level of certification sought. However, the energy savings can equal or even surpass those costs over the lifespan of the structure.
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Falling Architecture Billings Index Indicates Low Design Demands
American Institute of Architects (06/22/11)

Following up on a decrease in April, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) slowed even further in May. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the May ABI score was 47.2, a slight decrease from a reading of 47.6 the previous month. This score reflects a continued decrease in demand for design services. The new projects inquiry index was 52.6, down from a mark of 55.0 in April, its lowest level in almost a year and a half. "Whatever positive momentum that there had been seen in late 2010 and earlier this year has disappeared," says AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Bake. "The broader economy looks to be entering another soft spot, and certainly state budget constraints are adversely affecting the profession's ability to work on institutional projects. But there is no denying that the prolonged credit freeze from lenders for financing commercial projects is the number one challenge to a recovery for the design and construction industry." The regional average for the West was 49.3, 47.6 for the Northeast, 47.5 for the South, and 45.9 for the Midwest.
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DOE and The Appraisal Foundation Announce New Partnership to Focus on Energy Performance and Building Appraisals
U.S. Department of Energy (06/13/11)

As part of the Obama Administration's efforts to improve commercial building efficiency 20 percent by 2020, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on June 13 announced a partnership with The Appraisal Foundation that will help expand access to energy efficiency and building performance information for commercial buildings and help American businesses to reduce energy waste. Under the new partnership, the Department of Energy and The Appraisal Foundation will work to ensure that appraisers nationwide have the information, practical guidelines, and professional resources they need to evaluate energy performance when conducting commercial building appraisals. This will help enable investors, building owners and operators, and others to accurately assess the value of energy efficiency as part of the building's overall appraisal. "Providing appraisers with the tools to accurately include energy performance when they place a value on a commercial building will help American businesses and institutions save money by saving energy," said Chu. "If better performing buildings have a higher value, it will help enable the upfront investment for energy efficiency upgrades." In 2010, commercial buildings accounted for about 20 percent of all the energy used in the United States. In conjunction with The Appraisal Foundation, DOE will develop information and educational tools relating to valuing green buildings based on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. These tools and resources will help appraisers appropriately include energy performance and sustainability in valuations.
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Is LEED the Gold Standard in Green?
Miller-McCune (06/12/11) Ikenson, Ben

The LEED program is the most-recognized name in green building and has been embraced far and wide as the standard, but Henry Gifford, who has made his living designing mechanical systems for energy-efficient buildings in New York City,says there is major doubt about the return on investment and that LEED “fills the need for a big lie to the public.” He says data shows LEED buildings actually use more energy than traditional buildings, and the program has only created “the image of energy-efficiency, not actual energy efficiency.” Gifford has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for making false claims about the savings brought by LEED-certified buildings and creating a monopoly that excludes legitimate experts such as himself. He and three other plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief and financial damages for lost sales and other harm. The monopoly claim was recently dropped, however they still charge the organization with false advertising and deceptive practices. USGBC has asked for the case to dismissed saying there are no grounds for it, and calls Gifford “a longtime gadfly, preoccupied with critiquing USGBC and LEED through the media, internet forums and the like.” But some other experts say the case has some merit, noting sporadic energy performance shortfalls in LEED buildings, and whatever happens with the case, it has ignited new debate on energy conservation.
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Water

One Year Late, $46 Million Fish Hatchery Remains Slowed by Water Problems
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (06/27/11) Mowry, Tim

The $46 million Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks, Alaska, has yet to open because of problems with the hatchery's state-of-the-art water filtration system. While construction of the hatchery -- which was supposed to open in 2010 -- is pretty much complete, engineers with contractor CH2M Hill are fine-tuning filters designed to remove iron and manganese from the water. "We're evaluating the water quality on a daily basis," CH2M Hill engineer Rebecca Venot said as she checked several different water samples in the hatchery's new lab. "As soon as we're confident we can move forward, we'll go ahead with the proof of performance." That proof is a required 30-day trial test at the maximum water flow used in the hatchery — approximately 1,200 gallons per minute — and is needed before the Department of Fish and Game will move fish into the facility. The iron content of its water can be no more than 0.1 parts per million and manganese levels must be 0.05 parts per million or less. Nobody is saying how close the water quality is to those levels or how long it will take to get them there. “It's improving,” is all Venot would say. Once it is up and running, the hatchery will produce all the fish needed to stock more than 130 lakes and ponds in the Interior.
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Mixed Oxidant Replaces 'Cocktail' of Chemicals in Power Plant Cooling Tower Water System
Industrial WaterWorld (06/11) Vol. 11, No. 3, P. 22; Schrock, Paul E.; Muilenberg, Tom

Northern Indiana Public Service Co's. (NIPSCO) installation of a new on-site mixed oxidant system at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station has realized significant treatment chemical cost savings and improved summer operation. Up until spring 2010, NIPSCO's Chemical and Environmental Compliance Department had employed a tri-cocktail regimen of sodium hypochlorite, sodium bromide, and a photosynthesis blocker to treat water supplied to four cooling towers at the generating station. Saving money was a key consideration of changing the disinfection regimen, as sodium hypochlorite prices had risen nearly twofold. In late 2009-early 2010, NIPSCO deployed a MIOX RIO on-site mixed oxidant disinfection system on one of the cooling towers. MIOX mixed oxidant systems generate a mix of chlor-oxygen species through an electrolytic process that produces disinfectant by passing a high amount of electrical current through a salt and water solution. MIOX's RIO M5 system on the Unit 15 tower utilizes an electrolytic E-cell composed of five independent modules bolted together that can generate as much as 300 pounds per day of disinfectant as free available chlorine, which is equal to 9,000 gallons per day of 0.4 percent mixed oxidant product. The Unit 15 tower has outperformed the control unit tower after two full quarters of use, while NIPSCO chemist Steve Barnes says that "NIPSCO has not seen any negative corrosion impacts to date related to the use of the new mixed oxidant system." Whereas the control unit tower's conventional treatment costs $225,000 per year, the approximate cost of the MIOX-treated tower is $66,500 annually.
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Small Hydropower Projects Provide Affordable Energy
American City & County (05/11) Briggerman, Todd; Egger, David; Duncan, Bruce

The combination of rising energy costs, new technologies, and federal, state, and local financial incentives are making hydropower projects increasingly attractive to public water systems. Hydropower has often been associated with large-scale projects like dams, reservoirs, and major river diversions, but small conduit hydropower can be installed nearly anywhere pressure needs to be reduced in a conveyance system, like at the headworks of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plant outfalls, or any pressure reducing station. Small hydropower projects no longer need to be located near a river or dam. Locating hydropower turbines at pressure-control facilities enables communities to take advantage of energy that would otherwise be lost, and to use that energy to power the facilities or sell it back to the grid. Such projects are both saving money and improving energy efficiency. A decade ago, the San Diego County Water Authority determined that hydropower could not only improve conveyance of raw water, but also take advantage of excess pressure in the pipeline system. The Rancho Penasquitos Pressure Control and Hydroelectric Facility helps transfer water from a system of reservoirs, which enables it to generate renewable energy through a 4.5 megawatts turbine generator. The facility generates approximately $1.1 million annually through the sale of electricity, helping stabilize water rates and offsetting the authority's operations and maintenance costs. "The facility provides multiple benefits that include generation of enough environmentally friendly power back to the system to satisfy the annual electricity demand from approximately 5,000 homes," says Mike Wallace, San Diego County Water Authority Administrator.
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Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $1.58 Billion for 27 Major Transit Projects Across America
U.S. Department of Transportation (06/27/11)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on June 27 announced $1.58 billion for 27 transit projects nationwide that will improve public transportation access for millions of Americans while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing air pollution. "Investing in a modern transportation network is a key part of President Obama's strategy to win the future by out-building and out-competing the rest of the world," Secretary LaHood said. "America's long-term economic success requires investing now in transportation infrastructure capable of moving people and goods more safely, efficiently and quickly than ever before." "Our investments in expanding America's transit networks will not only improve reliable transportation access for communities across the country, they will support construction jobs and economic development," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. "And, a more efficient and reliable transit network means new opportunities for Americans to keep more of their paychecks in their wallets and spend less at the gas pump." Twenty-seven transit projects across America are on a path to receive funding under the New Starts program, through which Federal Transit Administration provides federal support for major capital construction projects such as subways, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit.
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USDOT Makes Available $175 Million in Livability Grants
AASHTO Journal (06/24/11)

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced the availability of up to $175 million in livability grants to help urban, suburban, and rural communities develop transit options to better connect people to where they live, work, and play. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities will begin accepting applications when announced next week in the Federal Register. Livability grants are aimed at assuring that transportation and housing decisions are made jointly and recognize the unique character of each community, according to USDOT. "Coordinated transportation and housing planning can make the best use of scarce federal dollars and can help create jobs, lower transportation costs, and reduce our dependence on oil," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "Communities where people have access to affordable housing and different forms of transportation to get to places that are important to them are communities where people want to live." Up to $150 million of the livability funding being announced comes from the Federal Transit Administration's Bus and Bus Facilities Program, which provides money to purchase or replace buses and to build bus-related facilities. The remaining funds come from the Alternatives Analysis Program, which provides money to help communities evaluate and select the best transit options to meet their transportation needs. The money can be spent on a broad range of projects within those two categories.
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Utah Panel OKs Rural Road Plan for Next 30 Years
Salt Lake Tribune (UT) (06/15/11) Davidson, Lee

The final rural transportation plan, adopted June 15 by the Utah Transportation Commission during its meeting in Logan, includes widening of interstate freeways and stretches of two-lane highways. The plan prioritizes highway projects for the next 30 years in areas that metropolitan planning agencies do not already cover. The Utah Department of Transportation expects $2.5 billion to be available for projects in rural areas through 2040, but says that $7 billion is needed to meet growth and safety needs. The plan calls for $209 million worth of widening on parts of Interstate 15, but does not schedule $435 million worth of additional widening and freeway interchange upgrades along I-15 that UDOT eventually hopes to fund. The plan calls for spending $86 million through 2040 to widen stretches of U.S. 40 between Heber City and Roosevelt, but does not schedule an additional $12 million for widening the highway near Heber.
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Innovative Arch Support
Point of Beginning (06/11) Wagner, Mary Jo

The use of 3D imaging technology and creative surveying and engineering work has helped extend the lifespan of the 180-year-old Chaudire Bridge, a major crossing connecting Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. Several structural cracks were recently found in the historical bridge's masonry arches. A substantial rehabilitation of both arches was needed to ensure it could continue to bear the weight of traffic, posing a significant challenge to engineers and surveyors. "Engineers needed to build and install arch supports, but it is very challenging to survey and reproduce the precise circular shape of an arch," says Denis Dubois, a professional land surveyor and CEO of Denis Dubois arpenteur-géomètre inc. "And the very nature of the river-crossing bridge makes accessibility to the site very difficult--the Ottawa River in that area is quite active and produces strong currents--so we would need to survey the arches from a safe distance." To overcome these challenges, Dubois turned to 3D scanning, which allowed him to quickly and safely create a very precise, holistic representation of both arches, and provide a complete, intelligent dataset to engineers. " It was simply the perfect application for the technology and was the key to our and the project’s success," says Dubois. Dubois says without 3D scanning, the project would have been far more labor intensive and costly. The project took only one week to install seven concrete arch panels on arch one and five panels on arch three.
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Other

EPA Budget Cuts Put States in a Bind
Washington Post (06/20/11) Eilperin, Juliet

When congressional Republicans cut the Environmental Protection Agency's budget 16 percent as part of a deal with President Obama to avoid a government shutdown, they hailed it as a blow to a federal bureaucracy that had overreached in its size and ambition. Now, details are emerging on how the agency is making the $1.6 billion cut for fiscal 2011. Because the EPA passes most of its money through to states, it has meant that these governments will see the biggest hits. Now state officials will find that they have less money to enforce the country's air- and water-quality laws, fund critical capital improvements and help communities comply with new, more stringent pollution controls imposed by the federal government. "The federal government and state grants are both shrinking while our demands are increasing exponentially," says Andrew Ginsburg, air quality division administrator at Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality. In addition, the reduced budget will likely mean fewer jobs at the state and local level. Many Republicans are unhappy with how the agency decided to reduce its budget. But, many of the funding decisions the EPA made were based on a mandatory formula, since $1 billion of the overall reduction affected just two programs helping to underwrite clean-water and drinking-water projects. Agency officials were able to protect some of the administration's top priorities, including more money to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The agency provided an additional $4.3 million to the Chesapeake Bay program while cutting every other regional cleanup. It also spent nearly $4.6 million on research of endocrine disrupters. The agency was primed to provide more than $8.5 million to help states cope with new rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, but Republican were successful in blocking the measure.
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