By Michael P. McDonnell, Senior Project Manager & Office Leader
Nearly every aspect of our lives is reliant upon energy production and distribution to affordably sustain our businesses, homes, communities, and lifestyles. Many of us desire a cleaner environment and better economy for ourselves and future generations, but it won’t happen by accident. At this time, all renewable energy power generation systems make up approximately 11% of our energy production/consumption. Therefore, reliance on renewables such as solar and wind power will not come close to meeting our current energy demands. If we desire a lower carbon energy foot print, then we must accept, for at least the interim, that we need to embrace cleaner/lower carbon emission natural gas systems, which currently comprise approximately 29% of our energy production/consumption. As with most complex challenges, there is no easy answer, and that is why we need to intentionally work hard, without prejudice and rhetoric, to secure viable, cost-effective solutions.
There are many renewable energy technologies for power generation being advanced today, but solar power is currently the most feasible option in the renewable energy mix. Solar power is a fluctuating/intermittent power source (with no substantial energy generation on cloudy days and during the night). The power generated by solar facilities either needs to be stored/reserved in batteries or an alternative power generation source needs to be provided during low or no solar power generation times. Although solar power has limitations, it has the potential to be a critical component for a lower carbon emission energy future. I am very fortunate and proud to have been involved in the planning/engineering of numerous renewable energy solar/wind projects over the last decade, which I feel is my small contribution to a cleaner/better future.
In 2018, JHA provided the environmental, civil engineering, surveying, and permit application services required by the multiple regulatory agencies to approve the construction of two solar facilities. Each of these projects encompassed approximately four acres of solar panels and construction is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2019. Once these two facilities are on-line, they will each generate approximately 2-megawatts of electricity for distribution to the electrical grid (equivalent to the electrical consumption of approximately 700 homes).
Getting a solar facility engineered, approved, and constructed is extremely challenging, as regulatory agencies require extremely detailed evaluations of applications including a multitude of assessments, analyses, designs, studies, plans, and reports for compliance with their regulations. Even if legislators were to promote and accomplish significant cut backs in regulations to promote further solar development, it would still not make solar a viable, sole power generation source. Therefore, if we want to minimize and/or eliminate our reliance on the higher carbon emission fossil fuels such as oil and coal (each respectively making-up approximately 37% and 14% of current power generation), then it is critical to increase natural gas power generation in our power generation mix in order to achieve a cleaner, better environment and economy.
JHA values the opportunities and relationships that we have developed over the past 10 years. It is through those relationships that we are able to provide engineering, surveying, and design services for numerous natural gas transmission/distribution, midstream pipeline, power generation, and natural gas production companies. We believe that JHA’s purposeful contributions toward the development of renewable solar power and clean natural gas facilities are our small part in answering the challenges for a desirable cleaner, better environment and economy. At JHA, we recognize that we can and need to do more, and we have faith in our plan to intentionally work harder to promote and accomplish cost-effective solutions for a lower carbon emission energy future, as we know, it won’t happen by accident.