POWER Engineers receives national award for Turkish geothermal plant

photo of turkish geothermal plant
The Kizildere-3 geothermal plant, in Turkey, was designed by Hailey-based POWER Engineers. Photo courtesy of Zorlyu Enerji.

An Idaho company has been nationally recognized for its work on a geothermal plant in Turkey.

POWER Engineers Inc., based in Hailey, received the American Council of Engineering Companies National Recognition Award on May 7 for its work on Kizildere-3 geothermal plant. The plant, which is owned and operated by the Turkish company Zorlu Enerji, adds 165 MW to the country’s generating capacity.

photo of bill harvey
Bill Harvey

The company, which has a total of 1 GW of geothermal capacity worldwide, develops projects that use geofluid from production wells, drilled into the earth’s surface to tap the geothermal source.

“Ideally, this fluid takes the form of steam, such as at the Geysers field in California, but more often, it consists of both extremely hot water, steam, and some entrained solids/gases,” said Bill Harvey, senior project engineer.

“At the surface we separate the steam, drive the turbine with it, condense the steam, and re-inject that and the separated hot water back into the earth,” Harvey said. “Sometimes if the temperature of the geofluid is too low to generate much steam, we can still use it to boil a ‘binary working fluid’ other than water, and use that vapor to drive the turbine. Each resource calls for slightly different solutions involving steam and binary turbines and can sometimes even combine the benefits of both types, like our Kizildere project.”

Like solar and wind, geothermal is considered to be a carbon-free renewable energy resource, but unlike sun and wind, it’s always available.

“Turkey is not blessed with ample oil deposits, and they value their independence, so they’ve put their pride and industry to work in vastly accelerating their pace of harnessing indigenous renewable resources, including geothermal,” Harvey said. “Turkey has economic and governance challenges as everyone does, but at their core they’re trying to be stewards of their resources for the maximum benefit of this and future generations, and we find it meaningful to help them accomplish that.”

Idaho also has a number of geothermal projects, most notably Boise’s geothermal system, which provides hot water and heat to downtown buildings including the Capitol and City Hall.

POWER Engineers designs renewable energy storage system for California utility

photo of battery storage facility
Batteries in the Pomona Energy Storage Facility. Photo courtesy of POWER Engineers.

An Idaho company has received several awards for designing one of the nation’s largest energy storage systems.

The Pomona Energy Storage Facility, owned and operated by AltaGas with its natural-gas fired peaking power plant in the Los Angeles Basin, is a 20-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage facility — one of the largest in North America. It reduces the need to fire up natural gas generators at peak times while at the same time mitigating fluctuations from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, said POWER Engineers Inc., the Hailey company that designed the system.

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) selected the facility to receive a National Recognition Award in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards competition. In addition, the project received a 2018 award from the Idaho branch of ACEC in the “Energy” category, POWER said.

Battery storage is important as electric utilities look to renewables, to provide electricity for times when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, said POWER CEO Bret Moffett.

“Battery storage is vital in order to realize the full benefits of renewable generation,” he said. “Utility-scale battery storage is large, complex and not easy to make work efficiently and effectively.”

Idaho Power isn’t considering such systems yet for two reasons, according to Brad Bowlin, communications specialist. First, as of the 2017 Integrated Resource Plan — a report the company generates every two years to examine energy demand for the next 20 years — the cost per megawatt hour for battery types was higher than that of other options. Second, the 2017 IRP indicated that Idaho Power didn’t need any new energy resources until 2026. “Because of our status as a regulated utility, we can’t develop new energy resources without first demonstrating a need,” he explained.

The utility will re-examine the issue for its 2019 report, Bowlin said. “We are continuing to monitor price trends and the scalability of the technology in the coming years,” he said. “We prepare the IRP every two years to capture those sorts of changes in the energy market.”

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Steve Harris

The facility has a discharge capacity of 80 megawatt hours, meaning it can store and discharge 20 MW  — the electrical needs of 15,000 homes — of instantaneous power and deliver it for four continuous hours, said Steve Harris, senior project manager, in Boise.

As far as technology, lithium-ion batteries were about the only game in town, Harris said. “Lithium-ion batteries were the only proven technology available in the required schedule,” he said. “The major design challenges at Pomona were determining where to place the batteries and how to interconnect them to the utility electrical grid.” The batteries use the same sort of lithium-ion technology as batteries people use every day, except the system used 12,240 of them, each weighing about 50 pounds, he said.

The technology is similar to that used by the Tesla energy storage system, but that system would not have fit in the available space, Harris said. Instead, POWER developed a custom layout of the batteries’ storage racks and enclosure to fit, he said.

Typically, batteries in such a system start to degrade within five to seven years, Harris said. “Additional batteries are added at this point, until the original batteries are ultimately replaced entirely.” Most major utility-grade lithium-ion battery suppliers have a “take back” provision, where they take back the batteries at the end of their useful life and recycle the materials into new batteries, he said.

The project was designed between August and November 2016, and was built between September and December 2017. Typically, such projects take at least a year, Harris said. The lithium-ion batteries, software control platform and power conversion technology were provided by Wärtsilä’s Greensmith Energy Management Systems. ARB was the contractor.

About POWER Engineers

POWER was founded as a two-person engineering firm in Pocatello in 1976. In 1977, the company moved to Hailey, where its headquarters is still located. It employs approximately 2,500 people in 45 offices in the U.S. and overseas. The company recently acquired the Austin-based environmental firm Zephyr Environmental to expand its air quality and environmental services.

As a private company, the firm does not disclose revenues. Other more local projects include design work on the CS Beef packing plant in Kuna.

POWER Engineers acquires Austin’s Zephyr

POWER Engineers Inc. has acquired Zephyr Environmental Corp. of Texas.

Zephyr is a 75-person firm with Texas offices in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, as well as offices in York, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland. POWER, based in Hailey, has a staff of 2,400.

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Janet Metzger

The Zephyr team will remain in its offices and operate as usual, said Janet Metzger, POWER’s corporate communications manager. “Our goal is as little disruption to our new team members as possible and no disruption to our clients,” she said. “We have a very similar culture; there will be no change in the quality of work, and both companies focus on the mutual success of our clients.”

POWER is waiting to change the name of the Zephyr organization until May.

“Zephyr is very well known for its expertise in air quality in our industry,” Metzger said. “Setting a target of May allows us to be thoughtful about our communication with Zephyr’s current clients and allowing them to learn about POWER.”

The privately held companies wouldn’t say how much the acquisition cost.

According to The Global Consulting M&A Report by Equiteq Ltd. from Q4 2017, the most recent one available, overall global deal activity in the consulting sector fell by 4 percent from the previous year and declined 1 percent from the previous quarter. M&A activity in North America rose strongly, but in general there was a sharp decline in deal flow in the engineering sector, the company reported.

Power Engineers participates in African trade trip

Power Engineers, a Hailey-based engineering company that has about 400 employees in Boise, is taking part in a trade mission to Africa in late May and early June.

Chris Garvin
Chris Garvin

Engineer Chris Garvin, federal global department manager for the company, is traveling to Tanzania and Malawi until June 5 to meet with stakeholders in the energy sector in those countries.

Power Engineers is a global consulting engineering firm offering  engineering, architecture and program management services.

“I believe there will continue to be opportunities for U.S. firms in Africa in the near future,” Garvin said.

The trip is being put on by leaders from Millennium Challenge Corp., a government foreign aid agency, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. It includes officials from several U.S. companies, according to information from the DOC.

Power Engineers was founded in 1976 and has more than 2,300 employees in more than 45 offices in the U.S. and elsewhere. It has annual revenues of about $350 million, Garvin said.