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Amplified Perspectives

Today’s trending topics explored by key industry leaders.

Open Access Networks Provide Platform for Broadband Expansion

Open access networks help bridge the gap in connection disparities by bringing in a third-party team to help plan, design and construct a fiber optic network that gives local internet service providers (ISPs) the opportunity to expand their broadband services to those lacking this critical...

Enhancing Rural Electric Infrastructure for an Efficient Smart Grid

Across the United States, cooperatives and municipalities need to provide reliable power to keep communities thriving. For them — as with investor-owned providers — a key component to successfully delivering reliable power is making electric improvements before aging infrastructure or other service...

Reconsidering Funding From the Rural Utilities Service

Recently, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) approved $1.6 billion in long-term financing for rural utility projects across 21 states. This included more than $700 million for a new, greenfield natural gas-fired power plant — a rarity in today’s market. And while the entirety of that $1.6 billion...

LNG Satellite Facilities to Power Rural Communities

Electric cooperatives and utilities across the U.S. are focused on providing safe, reliable and cost-effective services. In rural communities, power providers are often challenged to deliver affordable and reliable energy. Despite the rapidly evolving advancements across the energy industry, many...

Rural Communities Reap the Benefits of Wind and Solar

Over a century ago, Burns & McDonnell launched into the power industry with a project in Coffeyville, Kansas. In the 1960s, our team continued to support the rural municipality as it set out to build a new power plant to meet evolving needs. This sustained relationship has helped our team...

Strong Work Ethic and Passion-Driven Career Key for Success

For me, finding my passion for a career was an evolving process. Growing up on a farm, where hard work was an expectation, I learned at a young age the value of a strong work ethic over pure skill or talent alone. Armed with the desire to help others, I considered becoming either a doctor or...

Each Project Is a Unique Experience

I would describe myself as an adventurer who thrives on challenge and growth. This personality trait has translated well in my career as an engineering and construction project manager, and in dealing with the complex issues that come with seeing a project through from conception to completion....

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in the Energy Industry

From my early days delineating wetlands and designing mitigation sites to offset wetland impacts to my current role managing projects and leading the Natural and Cultural Resources Technical Services Team, I’ve established trusted partnerships with colleagues and clients to achieve project success.

Pay It Forward: An Engineer’s Journey to a Better Tomorrow

Throughout childhood, I was often found tinkering with the old radios and transmitters my grandfather had around the house. When it was time to start my bachelor’s studies, I found myself wanting to be close to science and choose between medicine and engineering. That’s when I settled into the idea...

Building a Strong Foundation

For me, my path to becoming an engineer started early.

Bridging Cultural Gaps

Growing up in India and southern Africa, my career path was shaped by the world around me. A desire to help provide basic services to the poor was a primary motivator. I had an affinity for science, and my father was a structural engineer. So, when it came time for me to pick a career, I tried to...

Stay Focused on Long-Term Strategies to Build Successful Projects

Prompting countless project shutdowns or delays and the threat of looming layoffs or furloughs, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a season of economic vulnerability for both project leaders and their teams. Veering away from the project strategies established in more certain times could...

Project Management Office Provides Adaptability in Uncertain Times

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are under stress like never before with project shutdowns or delays and potential layoffs or reduced staff. An integrated program management team and project management office (PMO) can supply some much-needed flexibility for organizations to...

Adapting to the New Normal of Healthcare

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the world over the past several months, and many industries have been impacted. Healthcare providers — from enormous, academic teaching hospitals like UCLA to smaller, local doctor’s offices — have and continue to be the offensive line of the COVID-19...

Project Management Office Techniques Create Reasonable Solutions

Recent shutdowns and delays in reaction to the ongoing pandemic and resulting social distancing measures have placed pressure on every industry to keep projects on schedule and on budget. The COVID-19 crisis has led to a lack of resources for many organizations, straining many teams with increased...

Visualizing Return-to-Work Facility Management Plans

Businesses across the country are beginning to visualize what it may look like for employees to safely return to work. To create these plans, owners must be able to envision a strategy for the weeks and months ahead.

Considering Automation for the New Normal

The new normal for operating in the workplace will likely look different as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s unknown exactly what that future holds, many businesses may need to consider implementing different processes in order to abide by new rules and regulations.

Safety Is First: Best Practices for Safely Returning to the Workplace

After months of self-isolation and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the country is now looking for ways to make returning to normalcy effective and safe. And one of the main questions on everyone’s mind is, “How do we go back to the workplace?”

Preparing for a Changing Future for the Supply Chain

With crucial manufacturing sectors facing shutdowns and cities going on lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted markets, causing organizational leaders to reevaluate operations from a risk perspective. Many critical products, such as personal protective equipment and active pharmaceutical...

Food Distributors Face Pandemic Challenges

With the at-home food supply demand growing rapidly in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores and other points of the food supply are facing difficulties under the strain. Food suppliers have the capacity to prepare for seasonal demands, such as candy at Halloween or turkeys at...

Surviving Another Ride on the Solar Coaster

The effects of mass isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching, causing a general downturn in the economy and adversely impacting almost all major industries. As the crisis continues, organizations begin to look toward the future, seeking out ways to continue operating...

Investing in a Post-Pandemic Future

The COVID-19 crisis has forced everyone, including our public agencies, to face new and unexpected challenges. Our communities are learning, adapting and innovating every day. One day, hopefully soon, our world will appear more like it did before the pandemic, but we will be changed. With possible...

A Pandemic Doesn’t Change the Need to Engage Communities

Even though our in-person interactions are significantly decreased with ongoing social distancing measures, project teams must still work hard to develop long-term plans and projects that respectfully engage the public and key stakeholders. This includes working with communities at the very...

Advancing the Circular Economy of Plastics

Nearly every aspect of our lives involves plastic, the benefits of which are so firmly ingrained into our daily routine that we sometimes take them for granted. Due to its lightweight nature and ability to provide an effective and durable barrier to air, moisture and bacteria, plastics are utilized...

A Steadfast Workforce Delivers Responsive Power

With a long history of serving the public, electric utilities have weathered a variety of crises, from hurricanes to tornados and fires. Utility personnel have worked around the clock for weeks after hurricanes have devastated communities. Crews from across the U.S. are accustomed to mobilizing for...

Recorded Environmental Training Sessions Initiate Smooth Operations

Federal, state and local permitting agencies; siting boards; public utilities commissions; stakeholders — you name it — numerous organizations and regulations dictate the actions and commitments required for approval of a project. In states like California, for example, there could be hundreds of...

Managing Utility Reliability and Service Through a Public Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world around us as large portions of economic and social activities have shut down or been curtailed. Some things people often take for granted are absent.

Virtual Project Kickoffs Require New Creative Direction

Despite today’s many global disruptions, the oil and gas industry is focused on business as usual, as much as possible, which is inspiring creative, clever solutions that can do just that. Though not revolutionary, these reimagined approaches are kicking off big, multiyear projects, from various...

Extending the Value of Lidar Scanning Technology

Laser scanning at job sites using lidar technology is certainly nothing new. Building point clouds from data collected in this way has long been helping engineers, designers and project managers create efficiencies for project delivery. But in the current climate, faced with the rising need to...

Innovative Technologies Support Safe and Efficient Deployment of Teams

Keeping pace with changing regulations related to the spread of the coronavirus is an ongoing challenge for utilities and the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) companies that design, build and maintain critical infrastructure. Travel restrictions, health advisories and business guidance have evolved...

Adding to the Tool Belt: Augmented and Virtual Reality Headsets

Engineers are problem-solvers at heart. No matter the situation or the challenge, we’re always working to discover different, more efficient ways to approach a problem. As the many industries we touch shift and change, so do those challenges, giving rise to new issues and causing us to discover...

Transitioning to Remote Project Management

As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, remote management of projects is essential. Communities depend on safe and reliable infrastructure, so utilities have a commitment to continue moving critical projects forward — even when key personnel are unable to be in the office or field.

Facility Management for the New Normal

In the current environment — with staffing reductions and remote work being performed at unprecedented levels — various facilities present the need to be managed from off-site locations by fewer employees. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology could allow facility management work to...

Successful Means Safe: Mitigating Risk During a Health Crisis

If history has shown our industry anything, it’s that the need for critical infrastructure doesn’t disappear with added risk. The continuously developing COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the stability of the economy and many of the industries we serve. But construction projects — and the workers...

EPC Project Delivery Offers Stability During Pandemic

Even in a pandemic — perhaps especially in a pandemic — critical infrastructure construction projects must go on. As difficult as life-altering pandemic conditions are to manage, they would be even more so without reliable supplies of power, water and other basic services.

Cloud-Based Systems Stand Ready for Seamless Project Delivery Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Utility leaders and employees are balancing many concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from their health and well-being all the way to their ability to continue operations and core business functions impacted by what’s happening now and whatever comes next.

Responding to Cyclical Changes in Workforce Availability

In recent years, the construction industry has benefited from a growing economy. Demand for new construction has been strong, and meeting this demand has required a large skilled labor force. But the market is changing. COVID-19 and the recent volatility in oil prices are having major impacts on...

Solve Procurement Challenges by Partnering With Small or Diverse Businesses

As our industry is quickly learning, a global pandemic — and all its impacts on labor availability, material supply, logistics and other still-evolving ramifications — can have a significant impact on construction projects. It can also be a reminder for utilities of the value of a proactive...

How Will the Pandemic Likely Impact the Battery Storage Market?

As you think about your battery energy storage projects in the coming weeks and months, the coronavirus pandemic will surely also be on your mind. As you make plans, here are some things to consider:

Detailed Planning Prevents Weather-Related Construction Delays

Meeting project deadlines and tight budgets is a top priority in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, but achieving this goal can be difficult. Market pressures, such as fluctuating materials costs, labor availability and the pandemic, can have a significant impact on...

Regulatory Uncertainty Around PFAS Puts Planning into Focus for Industry

Members of the oil, gas and chemical industries are closely watching the development of regulations pertaining to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the functional constituents in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF).

Remaining Compliant With Emerging PFAS Regulations

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a leading environmental topic of discussion across the U.S.

Conceptual Site Models Factor Heavily Into PFAS Remediation Success

Per­- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pose a growing threat to industries faced with assessing and potentially remediating sites impacted by these emerging contaminants. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established drinking water health advisories for certain PFAS,...

Preparing Municipalities for PFAS Regulations

Per­- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS compounds, continue to challenge industries, states and municipal water utilities across the U.S. New regulations are emerging as states determine how best to address these compounds, which number in the thousands and are present in numerous...

Harnessing Actionable Data Through Integrated Solutions

Utilities that rely on efficient capital portfolios for their bottom line also depend on efficient project management to make their projects successful. Until recently, operating in accordance with market limitations and proven business practices allowed utilities to thrive. Now, seismic changes in...

How Big Data Drives Transportation Spending

Many of us are aware of the nation’s infrastructure troubles. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives it a D+ on its most recent Infrastructure Report Card. At the current pace of repair, it will take 80 years to restore the country’s deteriorating bridges, according to the American Road and...

Keeping Up With the Evolution of E-Commerce Consumption

As shopping habits have changed, consumers have been conditioned to receive their online orders within one to two days. The evolution of e-commerce is driving the need for more labor, but with a lack of labor in this industry, factories are looking for advanced technologies to continue to deliver...

Utilities Key in Bringing Broadband to America’s Last Remaining Mile

Providing broadband internet to the 25 million Americans who still lack access to it may be easier than we think.

Using Technology to Manage Our Vital Water Resources

Municipalities and utilities face rising needs and shifting demands as water supplies evolve across the country. As these needs continue to burden resources, technology will be critical to help make timely and cost-effective solutions for infrastructure under enormous pressure.

Beginning the Journey to Project Management Excellence

From huge data centers and the growth of electric vehicle usage to renewable integration and distributed energy storage, the demand and operating dynamics for delivering sufficient and reliable electricity have never been greater. Utilities that embrace strategic project management principles tame...

Now Is the Time to Implement a Utility Project Management Office

Utilities excel in operations, but project management may present a significant challenge for utilities learning to adapt to today’s changing utility landscape.

Three Critical Elements for PMO Success

Utilities understand that their operating climate has undergone major change in recent years. From emerging competitive markets to retiring in-house knowledge and nonstop energy demands, infrastructure and investment projects must be efficient, on time and add value. One area that offers tremendous...

Guiding the Management of Organizational Change

Change management refers to the many approaches used to prepare and support a business in making organizational change. Unfortunately, it’s usually associated with convincing people to shift from where they are to somewhere they don’t necessarily want to be. The entire concept is predicated on the...

Playing Chess With Your Portfolio

As utilities continue to operate within increasingly competitive environments, using a project portfolio management tool to identify project value, leverage resources and evaluate project risk may offer the winning move.

PMOs Support Successful Data Governance Initiatives

Many factors are increasing the awareness of and need for data governance in the electric power industry. Internally, utilities want to increase operating effectiveness and reduce costs while making self-service analytics available across the organization.

Extending the Life of Hydroelectric Facilities

As populations grow and regulations tighten, owners and operators of utilities feel the pressure and work to keep pace. When it comes to updating their plants and facilities to meet new standards, a total overhaul can be intimidating. Space and budget concerns create significant challenges. With...

Understanding Aging Infrastructure Conditions With Modern Technology

Approaching a plant retrofit without first understanding the condition of the plant’s assets is like buying a 50-year-old house without an inspection: There’s no guarantee that things will be in working order. Having a precise understanding of the condition and location of existing infrastructure...

Using Asset Health Data to Increase Utility Reliability

Infrastructure assets in the power industry are the lifeblood that keeps the power on. The data these assets generate is key to understanding how to make the most of them. But often utilities struggle to proactively monitor assets, making it difficult to prioritize projects and predict end-of-life...

Utilizing Drones to Maximize Efficiency and Safety on Spills

Effective and safe emergency response to oil and chemical spills is highly dependent on access to information — specifically, aerial photography of the incident site. Such photography provides critical information regarding the incident’s size, scope and potential threats to human health and the...

Data Mining at Mines Using UAVs

To the lay person, a picture is worth a thousand words. To mining industry leaders, UAV footage could be worth thousands of dollars in operational cost savings. Photographs — specifically aerial photographs obtained by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — provide critical information and documentation...

Deploying UAVs for Efficient Power Restoration and Outage Prevention

The electric grid is constantly exposed to severe storm elements such as high winds, lightning strikes, flooding and wildfire. Even when storms subside, grid components are subject to the long-term impacts of aging facilities, vegetation overgrowth and equipment failure. Preventing environmental...

Remote Pilot Aircraft Training Center Prepares Next Gen Flight Crews

Since the initial development and use of drones in the early 2000s, the Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) program within the U.S. Air Force has grown rapidly. Today, the Air Force trains more RPA pilots than conventional pilots, generating a need for new training facilities. At Holloman Air Force Base...

Collaborative Contracting Approach Brings Cost and Schedule Efficiency

Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) provides the framework to help simplify and manage large capital projects in the construction industry. But it’s the early integration of construction with engineering and procurement resources that unlocks the real potential for how AWP can impact project efficiency...

8 Ways to Protect Water Systems From Physical Threats

Water is fundamental to daily life. If the power goes out, you can light a candle. Or if you lose gas, you can start a fire and bundle up. However, there is no alternative for the benefits that water provides. Community water systems are responsible for uninterrupted delivery to homes every day.

Establishing a Security Compliance Maturity Model

Utilities do a great job of gathering evidence and preparing for an audit. Audit recommendations are thoroughly followed, whether calling for minor changes or full-scale mitigation plans. When the process is complete, regular responsibilities are promptly returned to until the next audit cycle...

AWIA Compliance: Assessing Risks, Developing Emergency Response Plans

Planning for the worst may seem like a pessimistic view to hold but preparing for identified risks is essential to reduce potential disruption or, even worse, contamination of a public water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring utilities to conduct risk and resiliency...

An Up-to-Date Security Plan Brings Physical, Cyber Together

If a water utility is seeking to review and recertify its risk and resiliency assessment (RRA) or emergency response plan (ERP) in accordance with America's Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) requirements, I have one word for you: consolidate.

Delivering the Value from Value Engineering Centers

To deliver reliable energy at a reasonable cost to ratepayers, utilities require infrastructure improvements and projects to be delivered at the highest quality at a competitive price.

For Large, Complex Initiatives, Program Management Is Hard to Beat

A program management (PgM) approach isn’t appropriate for most projects. But when the conditions are right, it’s almost always a good idea to utilize it.

Bolster Resources and Achieve Goals Through EPC Project Delivery

It’s no secret that electric utilities are facing many changes. From big data to distributed energy resources to increased regulatory management, new initiatives are affecting every part of the industry. 

Co-Location Brings Project Efficiency

There can be moments of clarity in the midst of a project when lessons learned make a lasting impression — and have the potential to positively guide future projects.

Utility Workforce Challenges Can Become Partnership Opportunities

Workforce reductions and an increase in competition for engineering skills are affecting organizations throughout the energy industry. As the cost of power decreases and the implementation of renewable solar and wind increases, utilities are experiencing a reduction in engineering teams, project...

Remediation Turns a Superfund Site into a Home for Honeybees

The top priority on any Superfund remediation project is to make the site safe for human, plant and animal life. This requires removing, containing or limiting the effects of the site’s toxic substances. Increasingly, Superfund remediation is done with an eye toward green remediation that considers...

Avian-Friendly Approaches to Power Lines

Birds on a wire have fascinated song writers and artists alike since the first power lines were constructed in the early 1900s. But to electric utilities, the same image conjures up something quite different.

Protecting Wildlife With a Habitat Conservation Plan

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are valuable collaborative conservation tools that provide a balance between development and protected species conservation.

Skilled Mitigation Planning Streamlines Permitting, Offsets Impacts

Successful project permitting sometimes requires environmental mitigation or ecological restoration efforts to offset impacts to wetlands, wildlife or other resources. However, identifying those impacts and selecting appropriate mitigation solutions can be complex. Developers have knowledge and...

Potential Risks and Unintended Consequences of the AWP Trend

Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) has been shown to improve communication, safety and efficiency on industrial construction projects, but it also risks taking the planning out of the plan.

Moving Toward a Data-Centric Workflow in the Construction Industry

Large-scale construction projects require collaboration from many different parties. Engineering, procurement and construction need to integrate seamlessly to deliver projects on time and on budget. But bringing all the necessary data and methodologies into alignment has always been a challenge.

Break Projects Into Defined Work Packages for Construction Efficiencies

Using 3D modeling alongside the Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) process has helped complex construction projects become more streamlined, easier to visualize and simpler to construct. By marrying technology with existing high-quality project planning practices, AWP offers the potential to integrate...

The Safety Advantage of Advanced Work Packages

Well-planned work areas, an informed construction crew and clear work assignments reduce the chance of safety incidents on the work site, which is the No. 1 goal in complex construction project execution. Using the Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) process helps facilitate an improved safety culture...

Reducing Solar Project Risk in a Supply Constraint Market

The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has been driving solar energy technology adoption in the U.S. since it was enacted in 2006. The ITC has been modified and extended over the years, with the most recent extension in December 2020.

Illuminating Ways to Manage Solar Manufacturing Quality Risks

The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) phase-out and Section 201 Solar Tariffs on the import of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules are creating a perfect storm for increased risk to U.S. utility-scale solar projects. As utilities, developers and owners accelerate activity to secure the maximum federal...

The Changing Landscape of Solar Siting and Permitting

At the onset of solar, projects were typically developed in warm or desert climates. Policy advancements and new technologies are changing the scenery of solar farms. Solar installations have been popping up along mountainsides and in cool northeastern winds. As new landscapes expand the...

Interconnection Considerations for Solar Project Site Selection

On the surface, selecting the ideal spot for a solar project is simple: Find a sunny area near existing transmission lines that are carrying extra capacity. But those ideal conditions are somewhat of a unicorn, and the reality of the process is much more complex.

For High-Quality Solar Installations, Start With High-Quality Evaluations

From customer demand to the investment tax credit (ITC), many factors are fueling an increase in utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects across the U.S. These trends are also bringing new solar construction firms into the market. As the benefits of solar come to light, utilities should...

Geotechnical Studies Reveal Site Obstacles, Reduce Unknowns on Solar Projects

A successful solar project needs the sun, but nearly half of solar installation construction happens underground. This makes what happens under the surface critical to a project’s success. On a job with thousands of foundations, every foot of embedment affects the project cost and schedule. Without...

A Community Outreach Strategy Can Drive Project Success

Vehicle traffic, pedestrians, underground utilities and limited space make urban infrastructure improvement projects complex, but failing to properly engage utility customers and community stakeholders in the process risks stopping a program before it begins.

Navigating Urban Infrastructure Project Constraints

Vehicle traffic, pedestrians, underground utilities and limited space make urban infrastructure improvement projects complex, but failing to properly engage utility customers and community stakeholders in the process risks stopping a program before it begins.

Should Urban Planners Focus on Water First?

It’s possible — or at least worth considering — that we have been doing urban planning backwards.

Three Steps to Tackle Urban Infrastructure Project Complexity

Accelerated gas main replacement programs (MRPs) are in progress throughout the U.S. as utilities across the country work to upgrade, replace and repair aging underground distribution infrastructure. While all projects can be complex, programs in urban areas face some specific challenges.

Transportation Planning Must Head in New Directions

You can’t get the right answers if you’re asking the wrong questions. So to get the answers our cities need to plan their roadways’ futures, those of us involved in transportation planning must start asking different questions.

A Transmission Master Plan Would Give Offshore Wind a Solid Foundation

The U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions are growing and face numerous energy constraints. Vast wind energy resources exist just miles from the shore. However, getting this potential power source from the ocean to consumers represents one of the biggest challenges for the emerging industry....

Overcoming Offshore Wind Siting and Permitting Challenges

After years of speculation, the offshore wind industry in the U.S. is finally taking off. While there was virtually no interest in leasing tracts of the outer continental shelf in 2015, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) leased nearly 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts in...

Factoring Constructability into Offshore Wind Development

The planning and permitting complexities associated with bringing offshore wind projects to fruition are why such projects are often four- to six-year endeavors, with construction accounting for the last 18 to 24 months. However, the financial success of any project centers on planning and...

Strategic Monitoring Goes Hand-in-Hand with Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) can have significant environmental and operational benefits, but to fully gauge the success of GSI projects — and to meet reporting requirements — it’s important to incorporate specific monitoring strategies to assess functionality, enhance performance and...

Adapting Stormwater Design Standards to Meet Future Community Needs

Today’s stormwater design standards are basic and simplistic, focusing solely on rerouting stormwater runoff away from built environments. But this strategy may be passing the risk of flooding downstream in addition to creating more significant and costly problems for downstream communities.

Optimize Existing Infrastructure Before Installing More

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is not to start from scratch but instead make the most of what you already have.

The Building Blocks of Green Stormwater Infrastructure Design

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) has an important job: to reduce and treat stormwater at its source. To do that job, it must be designed with the right components to capture, filter and store stormwater properly. The design must also include features that protect its integrity and promote its...

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Filters into Municipal Planning

Few people give much thought to where a raindrop goes after it falls from the sky, but stormwater management can have powerful environmental and operational implications for municipalities across the country.

How to Blend STEM Knowledge and Experience to Get More Affordable Solutions

Today’s experienced science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce presents both opportunities and challenges for engineer-procure-construct (EPC) companies and their clients. Knowledge and experience acquired over decades of hands-on engineering work is invaluable, but hiring such...

Streamlining the Air Permitting Process on Construction Projects

The process for obtaining a construction air permit is different in each state and region. If there’s one thing that is nearly universal, it’s that you can’t start building an industrial project without reviewing the applicability of one.

Managing the Environmental Handoff: Tips for a Seamless Transition

The transition from the construction phase of an oil and gas project to startup and operation is like the handoff in a relay race. You want it to be smooth and seamless. If the baton gets dropped, it can usually be pinned to a communications breakdown.

SPCC Plans Can Avoid Liabilities, Schedule Risks on Construction Sites

Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans have become routine for operational facilities, but they are often unheeded during construction phases, opening contractors to unnecessary liabilities. These plans are critical to the construction phase and can slow a project's timeline if...

Countering the Impact of Workforce Consolidation on Design, Construction

When companies are involved in mergers or acquisitions, the impacts can be wide-ranging. Multiple workforces are often consolidated in the name of strategic synergy. Staff who remain may feel overwhelmed and anxious, wondering if their jobs are secure. Morale can suffer.

Finding Solutions to the Skilled Labor Shortage

A strong construction market is a wonderful thing — until you can’t find the reliable, skilled labor needed to complete your project.

Are Renewable Energy Mandates Feasible in Large-Scale Implementation?

The Hawaiian state legislature wants to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. California recently announced its plan to have 100 percent reliance on zero-emission energy sources for its electricity by that same year.

The Smart Way to Approach Interconnections

As utilities and communities look ahead to their energy futures, they have a choice.

To Rightsize the Grid, We Must Oversize the Grid

The careful calculations the power industry has always used to plan the grid’s future, it turns out, may no longer work.

Despite Renewable Gaps, Solutions Abound for Maintaining Grid Stability

In September 2018, California raised its already ambitious renewable energy goals and is now aiming for 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Hawaii announced a similar goal three years earlier. Other states — particularly those in the western U.S. — are just a step behind, implementing higher...

Dispelling the Fear of EPC Project Delivery

It can be difficult for pipeline project owners to determine which delivery method is best suited for specific project needs. One approach to consider is engineer-procure-construct (EPC) project delivery.

EPC Is Accelerating Its Impact on the Transportation Industry

In private industry, owners recognize that being nimble in their design and procurement processes can yield great cost savings and schedule improvements. To achieve these benefits, they have adopted design-build delivery strategies such as engineer-procure-construct (EPC).

Tackling Job Site Challenges with the Advantages of Modularization

In today’s competitive business environment, oil and gas projects often must be completed on compressed schedules and in less-than-ideal conditions — tight footprints, reduced labor availability and elevated work requirements. These challenges can create schedule delays, negative project cost...

Overcoming Obstacles in Rural Electrification

Safety, reliability and customer service are top priorities for all retail electric utility providers. In a quickly evolving industry characterized by rapid growth and new technology, we all face daily challenges to bring these values to fruition.

Siting Battery Storage in Urban Areas

There was a time during the last decade when widespread blackouts in Southern California were common. I worked there for years, and you just don’t hear about them as much these days. As technology advances, electric utilities have developed ways to store excess power to help alleviate peak customer...

Going Into the Deep Freeze for Collaborative Project Success

About 600 km (186 miles) northeast of Calgary, in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada, Ipiatik Lake is a challenging place to work. Working on the surface of a muskeg formation requires that construction be restricted to wintertime. With the cold winter weather, in which temperatures can fall...

FERC Issues Final Rule on Protection System Coordination, Personnel Training in Order 847

On June 7, 2018, FERC issued Order 847, a final rule for “Coordination of Protection Systems for Performance During Faults and Specific Training for Personnel Reliability Standards.” The final rule approved Reliability Standards PRC-027-1 (Coordination of Protection Systems for Performance During...

Corporate Networks Prove Highly Vulnerable to Attacks

According to a recent report by an enterprise security solution provider, corporate networks are highly vulnerable to attacks that would give hackers full control of their infrastructure. The report outlines a study of 22 security assessments of corporate information systems at companies across...

VPNFilter Malware Targets Critical Infrastructure in Ukraine

Early in July, Ukraine’s SBU security service claimed it stopped an attack on network equipment belonging to the LLC Aulksa chlorine plant in central Ukraine. The attack appears to have been intended to disrupt plant operations. Specifically, the alleged plan was to block the function of the...

Embracing Alternative Funding for Airport Infrastructure

In our society, technology, climate and social norms are changing rapidly. Project delivery methods are changing as well — more rapidly than at any point in history. These changing delivery methods have the potential to provide new options for funding improvements to our nation’s infrastructure....

The Resurgence of Regionalization for Water Infrastructure

Regionalization was on the road to becoming a trend in the 1980s, but cities throughout the U.S. never fully embraced the regionalization of wastewater treatment facilities. What started out as a great way to share costs ended up with few of either regional assets or supersized plants being built....

Public-Private Partnership Funding Benefits Communities, Supports Environmental Goals

For many communities, limited capital budgets result in using creativity to find funding for environmental programs. Often, this means dipping into reserve funds or looking for other options. For some, a public-private partnership is the best option for funding infrastructure needs. In a...

Securing Grant Funding for the Green Omni Terminal Project

Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals, the third-largest independent West Coast terminal operator, had something specific in mind for its new terminal. The company wanted the capability to operate independent of the grid, to be able to provide emergency goods and services to the region in the event of a...

Order 843 and CIP-003-7: How They Will Impact Low Sites

On April 25, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published Order 843, effectively approving CIP-003-7 standards. An issued effective date of Jan. 1, 2020, has been released. So you might be wondering, “How do the new standards affect my current low sites?”

Substation Vulnerability Simulation Demonstrates Key Cybersecurity Principles

Our firm recently partnered with the University of Southern Maine Department of Engineering faculty and students to develop and execute an interactive substation cybersecurity demonstration, during which participants experienced real-time attack scenarios. Throughout the semester, the dual...

If Ransomware Strikes, Will You Be Protected?

On April 24, 2018, hackers compromised the website of the Ukrainian energy and coal ministry. A message was posted to the site demanding a ransom be paid in Bitcoin to recover the encrypted files. This appears to have been an isolated attack that did not impact any other areas of the Ukrainian...

Robust Energy Analysis Will Be Crucial for Future of Electrification

California is literally and figuratively charging ahead by setting lofty sustainability-related goals, which can be achieved through electrification initiatives.

Deploying America’s Electrified Bus Fleets

From King County Metro in Washington state to LA Metro and Foothill Transit in California, transit agencies along the West Coast are spearheading the electrification of bus fleets. Whether implementing pilot programs or exploring full-scale deployment, fleet electrification is on the rise. The...

Rethinking the Parking Lot: Electric Vehicles Could Power Microgrids

As the adoption of electric vehicles grows, so does the potential to create microgrids that can unlock energy alternatives for businesses and communities, essentially turning parking lots into small power plants.

Get Ready: Electrification Is Real and It’s Coming Your Way

If you’re wondering if the electrification of the automotive industry is really, truly a thing, here is your answer: YES. 

Gender and Cultural Diversity Lead to Better Design-Build/EPC Results

Engineering is a male-dominated field. However, as women are increasingly finding their way into STEM careers and on up to the C-suite, alternative project delivery teams, including design-build/engineer-procure-construct (EPC), also are becoming more diverse.

Attention, Women in STEM Careers: Mentoring Matters!

As more studies roll in regarding women in leadership, it's becoming clear that female empowerment isn't just good for women, it's good for everyone.

Inspired by Family, Driven by Success

Possessing a strong disposition toward science and mathematics wasn’t all that drove me to attain a career in engineering. I was actually born right alongside the family civil engineering business.

Daring to ‘Dream Big’ for the Future

Seeing your dreams writ large on the big screen can be inspirational.

Engineering Careers: Role Models, Right at Home

Your family doesn’t determine your career. But when it came to my professional calling, I didn’t have to look far for inspiration.

Building “Impenetrable” Cybersecurity Systems With Penetration Testing

Utilities often focus on offline or passive methods of assessing and protecting their systems. Being able to analyze configurations and evaluate access control lists is a worthwhile pursuit, and it does give utilities a sense of how secure individual systems are at a specific point in time.

FERC Approves Reliability Standards EOP-004-4, EOP-006-3 and EOP 008-2

On Jan. 18, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order 840 addressing Emergency Preparedness and Operations Reliability Standards. The final rule approved:

Start Sooner to Get More Out of Security System Commissioning

Commissioning — the process that verifies a substation security system operates in a manner consistent with its design — commonly starts in the final weeks before the system is handed over to the security operation center. But that can be a mistake.

How to Use the Time Created by the ELG Compliance Delay

With the federal rules back under review, coal-fired utilities have received something valuable in their Effluent Limitations Guidelines compliance (ELG compliance) plan: time. The question is how to use it, especially regarding treatment options for the wastewater streams impacted by the pending...

Planning Can Ease Challenge of Uncertain CCR Management Regulations

The best business decisions are rarely made in an environment of uncertainty and elevated risk. For owners and operators of coal-fired power plants, dealing with federal Coal Combustion Residual management (CCR management) regulations is creating just such a situation. Between compliance dates that...

Using Asset Health to Assist in Grid Planning

When you think of asset health, you may not instantly make a connection between its uses and the efforts of utilities to develop grid planning processes. However, utilities can easily apply the benefits to track the condition of components and equipment related to the distribution of power to...

Using Technology to Advance Grid Planning, Design and Operation

The transmission and distribution of power from generation to customer requires a jigsaw puzzle of physical assets. Keeping track of these assets and the data related to each is increasingly challenging, especially for a utility with hundreds of substations and thousands of miles of lines.

Grid Planning: Preparing for Customer Impacts on the Grid

Forty years ago, ARPANET was just getting off the ground. At that time, grid planning was built on the assumption that current and voltage decrease as power moves away from a substation. In this model, there was time for transformers and other equipment to cool overnight. Power flowed in one way....

Guard Against Cybersecurity Risks by Understanding Weaknesses

It’s not easy to protect something you don’t know you have. And yet, many power utilities have been attempting to do just that for years.

Get the Most From Your Black Start RFP

Maintaining a resilient, reliable power grid is on the minds of many. Utility companies, independent system operators (ISO) and regional transmission organizations (RTO) understand that preparation is key in avoiding a black start situation that might result from natural disasters, fuel supply,...

Black Start RFP Is an Economic Opportunity for Utilities

Electric power generation owners have seen their fair share of change over time. From competition to deregulation, renewable energy to distributed power, generation owners have had to accept, adapt and, when possible, optimize their business models to changing conditions. Within this morphing...

As Combustion Turbines Get Bigger, Black Start Units Follow Suit

Conceptually speaking, today’s black start units are not fundamentally different from the vintage units they are replacing. Most still depend on diesel generators to bring an electric power generation plant back online after a widespread outage.

Secrets of a Successful Black Start Installation

Adding black start capabilities to a power generating station is not a typical retrofit. It means adding an alternate, new way of doing something — like starting offline gas turbines — to the method the power station has relied upon since its original construction.

Closing the Gap with Design-Build for Water Infrastructure

Today's global infrastructure investment, estimated to be $2.5 trillion per year, falls short of the $3.3 trillion annual investment needed to keep pace with expected growth, not to mention renewal of existing aging infrastructure.

Integrated Project Delivery: Bringing Back the Master Builder

The concept of master builder dates to ancient times. In fact, the word architect comes from the Greek for chief (arch) and builder (tektōn). For centuries, the master builder blurred the lines between architect, engineer and builder. However, over time those lines grew more defined as the industry...

Counting on Benefits: Design-Build for Commercial Buildings

The commercial sector is often the battleground for an essential conflict between form, function and budget. In this environment, is it possible for owners to expect quality aesthetics without compromising cost and schedule? It is with single company design-build.

Locking in Cost Advantages of Design-Build Project Delivery

Preventing capital project costs from spiraling out of control is a primary concern for most public entities, but the traditional design-bid-build project delivery model can't always provide the early cost certainty clients seek.

Changing the Perception of Water Reuse

For most of human history, running out of water was a real risk, and one that wasn’t easily ignored. When your next glass of water or the ability to irrigate your crops comes from the local well or river, it’s hard to forget water is a finite resource. As Ben Franklin put it, “When the well is dry,...

Drought Mitigation Helps Secure Future Water Resources

Many communities across America don’t spend time imagining a day without water and what effect that would have. However, long-term drought has made this frightening scenario far too close to reality. As a result, many residents are well aware of the consequences.

Tight Water Resources Require Industrial Users to Plan, Invest

When you think of industry, whether oil and gas, manufacturing or any other sector, water doesn’t immediately come to mind. It’s rarely a major component of what is being produced — often, it isn’t even an ingredient. Yet it’s essential to the ongoing operations of virtually all plants and...

Water Resources Are Precious — and Our Kids Know It

Water is a resource that every organism needs to survive. It is crucial for life’s advancements and our health, which is why it’s important to educate our kids about conservation of water resources.

Understanding the Value — and Importance — of Water Resources

To me, the goal of the Imagine a Day Without Water Campaign is to remind people how precious our water resources are — and just how much water affects our daily lives. Nowhere is that more evident than in our nation’s heartland.

Malware Attacks on Critical Infrastructure Security Are Growing

Over the past several years, the world has seen an increase in the use of malware to directly and maliciously affect critical infrastructure. In 2012, a piece of malware known as Shamoon was used to overwrite the hard drives of some 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian national...

Low-Impact Requirements: Counting Down to Enforcement of CIP-003-6

Sept. 1, 2017, marked the start of the one-year countdown to enforcement of the CIP-003-6 low-impact requirements covering Physical Security Controls and Electronic Access Controls. While an entire year might seem like a long time, meeting that deadline still could be a challenge for some.

Keeping Food Safe in the New Distribution Model

A significant shift is occurring in today’s food market, leaving manufacturers to face new pressures from consumers. One trend specifically — that of food being delivered straight to the consumer’s door — is forcing manufacturers to change the way they handle food safety.

Packaging for Convenience, Flexibility and Speed

If you want to understand how changing consumer food tastes affect food packaging, just consider coffee.

Managing the Food and Beverage Supply Chain When Convenience Reigns

If you need office supplies, you probably wouldn’t think twice about placing an order online and awaiting their arrival on your doorstep. Grocery chains are betting you will soon feel the same way about purchasing asparagus and peaches.

Adapting to New Markets Means Adapting to New Business Models in Food Processing

Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods won’t just change how some Americans shop for groceries. This new e-commerce-driven partnership — along with the growing consumer preference for fresh, wholesome foods it seeks to exploit — is already creating ripples up and down the food supply chain.

Augmented Tracking Promises Improved Material Management, Construction Safety

Major construction projects are massive undertakings involving thousands of parts and materials. Keeping an eye on the countless details is critical to safe, effective work and positive outcomes.

Can Smart Glasses Make Construction Sites Safer?

Builders serious about improving their construction safety records may soon be asking workers to trade in their current safety glasses for a new, “smarter” pair.

Better Data Collection Tools Can Hasten Emergency Response

When a pipeline leaks or power lines go down, timing becomes critical. The faster the response, the better contained the problem will be. Whether it’s a relatively routine problem or the result of a significant natural disaster — such as a tornado or hurricane — effective emergency response depends...

Augmented Reality Meets Asset Management: This Changes Everything

To understand how augmented reality (AR) and smart glasses could transform the business of asset management services, consider what happens when an important piece of equipment unexpectedly malfunctions at a factory or power substation.

Advanced Water Treatment Methods Thwart Emerging Contaminants

Communities across the country are experiencing population growth in combination with aging infrastructure. Such growth provides many opportunities, including increased retail and commercial sales, industrial expansion and the attraction of new customers.

Managing Risks for Environmental Liabilities

Anticipating and keeping pace with the ever-changing regulatory environment is one of the biggest challenges companies face while managing risks associated with their ongoing operations. The key to success: private industries, government organizations and the military must document their processes,...

Be Prepared to Tackle Challenges of PFAS

A big challenge in addressing emerging contaminants is that it’s hard to know how to proceed — or justify expenses — in the absence a cohesive policy and established regulatory limits, such as national drinking water regulations.

New Emerging Contaminants and Their Implications

The term emerging contaminants (EC) is applied to compounds and substances that, for one reason or another, are the focus of new environmental regulations or rulemaking, public health advisories and, in some cases, litigation. New regulations and an evolved understanding of contaminant toxicity and...

Data Center and Utility Matchmaking for a Lower Total Cost of Ownership

It’s an indisputable fact: Electric utilities need customers. Electricity sales in the U.S. have fallen five out of the past eight years, primarily due to improvements in energy efficiency. Here’s another essential certainty: Data centers are excellent consumers of electricity, accounting for about...

Bringing Data Centers Into Site: Choosing a Strategic Location for Data Center Development

“Will this site work?”

Clients seeking assistance in strategic site selection for data centers will inevitably ask this. That question, however, fails to get to the real purpose of strategic site selection. Finding a site that “works” is important, but finding a site with specific strategic...

Solar PV Is Here to Stay

One of the trending questions in the power industry right now: Will the Trump administration continue policies that maintain the surging momentum of the solar power industry?

Future of Grid-Tied PV Systems

The North American power grid is the most reliable in the world, bar none. That’s the reason so many in the power industry are working hard to avoid any erosion in reliability as more megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation are introduced to the grid.

The Price of Solar Energy

Solar energy is becoming more cost-efficient — and cost-competitive with its fossil fuel counterparts. This gives the solar industry, as well as utilities and consumers, an alternative energy avenue to consider.

5 Ways Technology Will Innovate Aviation Security

Mention “air travel regulations” and “technology” and many will instantly conclude these terms are mutually exclusive, at least within the realm of aviation security and airport screening. Long lines, particularly during peak holiday and seasonal travel periods, generally evoke thoughts of...

Three Tips for Starting on the Right Track to Meeting New Regulation Standards

The water and wastewater industry is heavily regulated to protect our environment and prevent harmful pollutants from infiltrating drinking water sources or groundwater used for crop irrigation. Municipalities are responsible for making sure these regulations are taken seriously and put into place...

Driving Natural Gas: Alternative Fuel for Our Mobile World

Using natural gas as a vehicle fuel certainly has its benefits. As the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels, it has fewer emissions, which helps reduce pollution. These factors give natural gas a higher octane rating, which can extend the time between vehicle maintenance. Additionally, natural gas...

Alternating Currents: Natural Gas for a Whole New Generation

To say that the electric power industry is experiencing a sea change is like saying that water is the most essential element of life. To those of us involved in the industry daily, this statement is obvious. However, when most of society looks at the electric power industry, they see calm waters....

Modular Data Centers: Strategy Over Building Blocks

Taking a modular approach to data center development is gaining more attention among data center operators, and it’s easy to see why. In an industry where even a highly accelerated schedule isn’t always fast enough, any strategy that increases speed to market is valuable.

Integrated Design-Build for Speedier Data Center Projects

Integrated design-build is the only form of project delivery that can keep pace with the high demands of the tech industry.

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