Monday, February 22, 2016
Linda Van Hoosen, Communications
You’ve most likely seen them. Giant structures looming against the sky with massive blades turning in the wind. These wind farms are capable of providing power to thousands of homes and businesses. In the United States, you can find thousands of wind turbines in the “wind belt” which spans the Midwest, Great Plains, and Southwest. Olsson Associates recognized more than 10 years ago that this wind belt matched up well with where the firm’s offices are located. In addition, with all of the services Olsson can provide for wind development, it only makes sense for the firm to get involved with the industry.
“Olsson got involved with really good projects early on in Nebraska and soon realized we could market our many services to wind developers across all our offices,” said John O’Connor, Olsson business development leader. “We suddenly saw significant project opportunities for survey, environmental, field services and civil practices across the firm. It was these type of clients and opportunities that really allowed us to make renewable energy one of our key focus areas.”
It’s an initiative that has and will continue to provide success for Olsson and our clients. Wind energy offers low production costs and is friendly to the environment. Many utilities are paying attention to these factors. The American Wind Energy Association reported in the fourth quarter of 2015 that more than 4,300 turbines were installed across 37 projects in 17 different states. Of those 37 projects, Olsson Associates was involved in six. To date, Olsson has worked on 126 renewable energy projects for 42 different clients.
“We’re proud to say, here at Olsson, that we are doing business currently with four of the top six wind developers in the U.S.,” O’Connor said, noting the ranking from the American Wind Energy Association.
There are some factors for the surge of wind energy production. The Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) allows wind developers to get 2.3 cents per kilowatt of electricity produced. Also, the PTC program was recently expanded for a few more years. Wind power is inexpensive, and it has no emissions, which follows federal standards.
Building a wind farm, however, isn’t a quick and easy process. It starts years in advance of construction with environmental compliance work and surveying. The benefit of these services is they provide us an early entry point into these projects while positioning us for civil/site access design, roadway layouts/modification, geotechnical, materials testing, and post construction support. Olsson Associates provides many of these services to make the project a more streamlined process.
“We can be involved with the process from the beginning to the end,” said Jeff McPeak, team leader for the Lincoln Environmental team. “Through development, construction, and operations, there’s a lot of information carry-over from one stage to the next. We can provide efficiencies, consistency, and a streamlined flow of information to make smooth transitions between those stages.”
Looking ahead, Olsson’s investment in the industry will continue to grow. The firm is one of two engineering companies on the planning committee for the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference. Olsson is also a member of the American Wind Energy Association.
“We will always need power,” O’Connor said. “And because wind energy is a stable industry, Olsson will continue to provide a wide range of services to support that industry for years to come.”