3 Factors Impacting Green Energy Electrical Construction
By Anthony Masotto
National Sales Manager
One-Pull Wire and Cable Solutions
Electrical construction in green energy is undoubtedly a fast growing industry. It has support from governments, electrical professionals, and businesses. But as any electrical contractor who works in wind power or solar farm construction will tell you, it’s not always smooth sailing. How can an industry have such widespread support, but still be so difficult to navigate? Here we examine three hurdles faced by electrical contractors engineers in the renewable energy industry.
1) Power Availability Affects Construction Costs, Electricity Bills, and Hardware Maintenance
A common problem with green energy is consistency of availability. Wind turbines only generate power with wind, and solar panels need sunlight. For electrical contractors, these problems are deeper than just gaps in power supply.
Battery storage options for renewable energy have become far more affordable in recent years, but for a lot of projects they’re still cost-prohibitive. For larger electrical construction projects with greater storage needs, those battery costs will add substantial dollars to the total cost.
Inconsistent power availability can also hurt more than your bottom line. Constantly fluctuating power increases overall electrical costs. It can also damage the hardware in the system. Voltage variations, low power factor, and frequency disorder are all issues seen with poorly constructed green energy systems.
2) Strict Requirements for Land Topography, Size, and Location
Because of issues with power availability and cost and efficiency problems with batteries, a lot of solar and wind electrical construction jobs will have to be connected to the main national power grid. This will let your system tap into the main grid when there is a lack of available energy.
This means you either need to build near a main grid, or plan to run enough lines to connect to the nearest grid. This limits your options of where you can build. Bureaucracy, of course, makes it harder. You will need special permits, approvals, and contracts to build where you need to and to connect into the main grid.
There are also community and social concerns. Solar and wind farm projects are frequently opposed by the communities where they’re planned to be built. They take up lots of space, and large buildings with solar panels can give off irritating reflections. There’s also very real concern about the impact of wind farms on local bird populations.
Planning renewable energy construction jobs often involves more than mapping out the actual work. You will need to map out an entire strategy for community adoption, government approval, national grid system compliance, and long term viability of the finished project. You may need to bring on a contract consultant who knows how to navigate all of the bureaucracy. You might even need a PR or community outreach specialist to win the approval from the community.
3) Adoption Is Still Lagging
These issues hinder wider adoption of green energies because people don’t see renewable power as a complete solution. Battery storage means significant upfront costs, and the potential for inconsistent power supply raises the concern of future maintenance costs. When your client is confronted with these issues, they might ask “Then what’s the benefit of going green?”
Costs of electrical engineering tools and products in green energy won’t start dropping until there’s more demand and more competition. Demand won’t increase rapidly without a decrease in costs. This is where government incentive programs for renewable energy come in, but those have their own problems. You can also reduce costs by using the best tools and methods for the job.
Lower adoption of renewable electrical energy also means less attention is paid to it by policymakers. Federal incentives aren’t promoted well and they aren’t easily understood by the average consumer. State incentives vary widely, and have the same visibility problems as federal incentives. This compounds the problem of green energy being “unsure” in peoples’ minds, especially compared to the simplicity of connecting to a national grid system. You should familiarize yourself with all available incentives from both the federal and state governments where you work so you can simplify them and make them more accessible to your clients.
Interesting in learning more about bundled cable and its applications in the solar industry? Check out our solar farm case study.