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How to Choose the Right Temporary Power Provider for Your Construction Project

BY RUSS POROWSKI, AREA SALES MANAGER, AGGREKO

When considering a temporary power provider, match the equipment to the specific demands of the environment.

Planning for large-scale construction projects involves a host of moving parts and collaboration with numerous vendors and equipment providers at all points along its life cycle. Among these considerations, planning for temporary power should be part of the conversation early in the process. Given that most people are not power experts and with so many options for temporary power on the market, how do you know which provider is right for your project?

When considering a temporary power provider, it is important that the equipment matches the specific demands of the environment. Each construction project is unique and has different needs so there is no such thing as one-size fits all. Therefore, it is critical to work with a temporary utility provider that understands how to design a system that seamlessly ties into a construction process. This ensures continuity along the entire life cycle of a new or existing construction project whether the cooling be for site preparation, worker comfort or finishing issues.

Here are a few considerations that construction project planners should have on their radar in regard to temporary power evaluation.

EQUIPMENT
Whether your project needs 50kW or 50MW, having a power solution that’s engineered for your project’s unique specifications provides solid benefits, such as identifying your needs early on and avoiding unnecessary expenditures. A good temporary power provider will provide experienced project management to analyze your true needs and design a power system that is scalable to allow your project to grow as necessary. Power providers with experience in project management also ensure that you avoid unexpected or unplanned costs as well as enact safe procedures to protect both your workers and subcontractors. Your power vendor should also be familiar with the local electrical codes and standards for providing temporary power for indoor, outdoor and heavily or sparsely populated areas.

EXPERIENCE
A power outage can be detrimental to the success of a project. Power providers with a solid history of providing reliable power to construction projects are more likely to produce a smooth and reliable installation. Beware of companies without a verifiable track record. Ask for examples of their past projects and previous installations that are comparable to your project’s needs. Construction projects vary in size, geography and power demands. Therefore, experience in managing power for a wide variety of projects is the safest bet to a smooth execution.

RELIABILITY
Do they have a remote monitoring system in place to oversee fuel levels, ensure all equipment is running efficiently and diagnose problems before they occur? Having a power provider who is equipped with a real-time remote monitoring system could make the difference between preventing an unexpected outage or incurring losses and putting your workers’ safety at risk. Will their own team of technicians be available on-site during the project to perform maintenance or handle potential issues? Good power providers will have the in-house expertise to support your project from start to finish, ensuring flawless execution of your project’s power demands.

SAFETY CULTURE
When selecting a power provider, be sure to choose one with a strong health, safety and environmental (HSE) program in place, which is essential to protecting the well-being of all participants involved. Dealing with electricity in any capacity requires a very strict adherence to safety standards such as wearing protective gear, knowledge of various cables and their placement, awareness of nearby hazards, and having current safety performance statistics in good standing. Are they certified in ISO and OSHA standards? Companies who exhibit a commitment to safety through proper methods and procedures further reinforces their ability to effectively manage and mitigate risk.

THE ENVIRONMENT
When planning construction projects in heavily populated areas, consider the type of equipment that limits emissions and noise pollution for your attendees. Your temporary power provider should consider the protection of the project site during the pre-planning process to ensure minimal environmental impact. Their equipment should be built with acoustic enclosures and isolation systems to maximize quiet operations, and their generator engines must meet the current emission standards for the area in which your project will take place. Also, ask if their generators are fuel efficient.

CASE STUDY – SCENARIO
A construction company was bidding on the construction of a $250 million infrastructure investment to install a new siphon water tunnel under the Hudson River between Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York. Unfortunately, there was insufficient power available at the site for all the activities required for the project. In addition, the local utility was behind schedule in providing the necessary power, possibly jeopardizing the project timeline. If the contractor could not maintain the tight schedule, they would face severe monetary penalties. A power solution was in dire need, but it also had to abide by the contractor’s corporate commitment to use greener sources of energy, where possible.

The most significant demand was power for the tunnel boring machine, a large, very complex machine costing more than a million dollars that drills the tunnel hole. Power was also needed for a freeze plant that chills water and then pumps it through tubes into the ground to firm the ground and prevent a cave-in. There were also miscellaneous electrical services requirements for trailers, ventilation, water pumping, atmospheric monitoring and lights.

Moreover, the project was located in a residential area where there was no source of industrial power. One issue with running diesel generators in a residential area is that they are noisy and consume a large quantity of diesel fuel. In addition, there’s always the possibility of diesel spills. Because this was a water tunnel, the possibility of a spill was especially worrisome for the customer.

The project also encountered EPA and environmental limitations that prohibited the use of equipment over a certain size. In order to meet the overall environmental limitations, the plan involved lowering emissions in the project’s nonattainment area, a zone considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards as defined in the Clean Air Act.

CASE STUDY – SOLUTIONS
To meet the customer’s requirements, three 1,300 kW natural gas generators were used along with appropriate distribution equipment. A self-contained diesel unit and double-walled tank were also provided in the event that there was a gas power interruption. This ensured continuous power for emergency use in case of any problems. Using natural gas lowered emissions by more than 80 percent, provided an estimated cost savings of $125,000 per month in fuel savings over the next two years and avoided the possibility of a significant environmental incident.

As evidenced above, asking the right questions and carefully evaluating power providers when planning a large-scale construction project requiring supplemental energy doesn’t have to be a headache. Look for a temporary power vendor that can answer the hard questions about their equipment, reliability, experience and safety culture that will ensure your project achieves success in the safest, most cost-efficient and reliable manner possible.