2020 Year in Review
On many levels, 2020 has proven to be an especially difficult year for all of us. The global pandemic has impacted everyone. While some of us have lost love ones, all of us saw our way of life changed in ways no one could have imagined just 10 months ago. Through it all we were forced to find new ways to work, learn, play and socialize to help slow and contain the spread. Somethings have changed forever. Somethings are temporarily on hold but at a cost of prolonged pain and suffering, especially if it is your job our business that has been eliminated or shuttered. As ruthless as Mother Nature can be, she has also given humankind the unprecedented ability to recover and adapt. While some things will never be the same, in time, things will return to normal or at least feel that way.
Through it all we consider ourselves very fortunate. Like many companies, we leveraged out investments in technology and began working remotely. We rethought processes and made adjustments where needed. All projects were impacted to some degree and many were delayed but we continued on the best we knew how. Looking back at what has been a wild ride, here are few of the highlights that kept us busy:
Peak Shave Generator Plant
The project included adding new peak shave generators to an existing emergency generator plant. The peak shave generators were four (4) natural gas reciprocating engines with emission controls which allowed the site to participate in demand response and other revenue generating programs that together will reduce the site utility costs by 10% annually. The project was structured as a Power Purchase Agreement and required no upfront capital cost to the client.
Switchgear Control Upgrades
Switchgear and transfer switches installed 20 or more years ago often have obsolete or discontinued components that could be hard to service or repair should they fail. This year we helped one client replace obsolete controllers and relays throughout their portfolio. The work took us to 5 states and 9 buildings with more work to come. With these upgrades the client is now on the latest proven technology, with enhanced features and functionality and gave us the opportunity to re-commission the systems.
Building Automation System Upgrades
Multiple projects with our involvement ranging from third party commissioning to scope definition, sequence of operation revisions, vendor selection and general owner representation services.
End of Life Replacements
UPSs, batteries, chillers, air handlers, relays, and switchgear, just to name a few, were the types of projects we were involved in. The projects ranged from data centers, to hospitals, universities to office buildings. Few included direct like for like replacements since technology changes over time, so each had their own nuance. For example, multiple projects that involved replacing UPS systems and batteries included evaluating different technologies and battery options including 10-year warranty VRLAs, pure lead batteries, and lithium ion batteries.
Our commissioning activities included the peak shave generator plants, BAS controls, switchgear controls and relay replacements. With varying travel restrictions imposed by clients and states we used web conferencing for a virtual presence when team members could not be there in person. Virtual commissioning was used for STS and chiller factory witness testing as well as for relay replacements in the field. We even used virtual commissioning for the peak shave generators, connecting team members from around the country with FEA Cx agents in the field. While virtual commissioning cannot completely replicate being there in person it can be a tremendous value add for cost-effectively connecting subject matter experts and remote team members.
This year we began using a cloud based tool to support and standardize the commissioning process documentation and communications. It has been a useful tool to keep team members from around the country informed and up-to-date and we will continue to leverage more of its collaboration capabilities.
During the year we completed many feasibility studies, power system studies and arc flash hazard studies. One feasibility study included developing a flexible data center concept that can be scaled at different power densities to accommodate unpredictable future needs.
Last but not least was the major highlight of having a summer intern. Hannah, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Northwestern University spent the better part of two months at FEA where she was introduced to consulting engineering and mission critical design. Thanks Hannah for joining the FEA family and we wish you all the best at Northwestern and beyond.