With 2013 coming to an end, Dan Goymerac, vice president of industrial business development for Miron Construction Co., Inc., provides a look back at the power/renewables construction industry and provides a glimpse into trends that can be expected in the upcoming year.
What trends have you seen in power/renewable fuels construction in 2013?
Federal and State/MACT regulations are driving the traditional coal-fired power plants to look at back-end modifications for the addition of pollution control/prevention equipment, and also the conversion from coal to gas-fired facilities. With the current and upcoming regulations, there is considerable interest in alternative power sources such as biogas-to-energy, plastic-to-energy and waste-to-energy facilities. We’ve been approached by, and have been working with, companies to modify coal-powered facilities; many of these plants will be adding pollution-control equipment to help reduce emissions. In 2013, Miron constructed multiple notable biofuel facilities and had many opportunities to rebuild coal-power plants with the addition of back-end equipment.
Miron Construction is one of the largest providers of construction services for power/renewable fuels projects in the state. Power/renewable fuels is an exciting field for Miron, given the energy challenges our country faces today—and will face in the future. We continue to focus on serving industries in power and utilities, ethanol, wind, along with a strong focus on biofuels and alternative energy and development.
What are some notable power/renewable fuels projects Miron has completed in 2013?
One project that comes to mind is the GreenWhey Energy Food Waste-to-Energy project in Turtle Lake, Wis. GreenWhey Energy recycles food waste from the dairy industry to generate electricity. High-strength wastewater from area dairies is piped and trucked to the site and unloaded into one of several large equalization tanks. The contents of these tanks are then transferred to additional tankage where the feedstock is blended and fed into anaerobic digesters. The digesters consume and break down the organic material to produce methane gas. The methane is then supplied to biogas generators that produce 3.2 MW of electricity. In addition, heat from the biogas generator is captured and utilized to heat the building, preheat the feedstock and maintain the temperature of the anaerobic digesters.
Another notable project Miron recently completed is the Forest County Potawatomi Community Renewable Generation Facility in Milwaukee, Wis. This facility converts liquid and solid food wastes to biogas through an anaerobic digestion process. The biogas fuel generators produce a total of approximately 2.0 MW gross electrical power output, along with the capture and reuse of waste heat from the generators.
To put the power produced into perspective for both of the mentioned projects, each MW of power produced is enough power to supply electricity to approximately 900-1000 homes.
With both of these projects, Miron was integrally involved in the project planning and development, and providing value added services for: permitting, design, engineering, equipment procurement, along with providing overall general construction, start-up and commissioning.
What are some typical challenges you see in the alternative energy industry?
One of the biggest challenges in getting alternative energy projects off the ground is the process of securing feedstock and off-take agreements. These long-term relationships/agreements need to be in place early, prior to the project start, and as part of the contract there needs to be specifications focusing on quantity and quality of the feedstock being supplied.
Two other challenging areas for alternative energy projects is environmental permitting, and the acceptance of the general public. The permitting process can be time intensive, depending on the specific type of energy project, and the public perception of projects can potentially cause delays.
Are there any trends you see on the horizon for 2014?
There will definitely be a push for the construction of gas-fired generation facilities and peaking plants, along with the conversion of coal-fired facilities to gas-powered facilities. Also, there is a push to rebuild the back-end of coal-fired power plants and add pollution control/prevention equipment.
I believe we’ll see more upgrades and building infrastructure for hydroelectric plants. These plants can operate for decades, so there are opportunities to increase the amount of electricity generated by modernizing them and harnessing the natural power of water.
We also see more opportunities for waste-to-energy projects along with greater use of CNG (compressed natural gas). These projects will allow not only the recycling of commonly perceived garbage or waste streams, but the recovery of power and renewable resources from that waste.Photo courtesy of Greenfire.