In today’s construction news, discover the SunZia Wind and Transmission, a massive 3.5-gigawatt wind farm that will carry power from New Mexico to California via a 550-mile transmission line, is being built by Pattern Energy. Construction recently began. On the other hand, records reveal that for almost two years, representatives of Connecticut’s school construction office made an effort to steer millions of dollars’ worth of demolition and abatement work at nearby schools into two hazardous material contractors without offering other companies a chance to bid on those contracts.

The Largest US Wind Project is in New Mexico

Original Source: Biggest US wind project is under construction in New Mexico

Hoover Dam symbolizes Western electrification in the 1930s. Today, a New Mexico wind project represents greening.

Pattern Energy began construction on SunZia Wind and Transmission, a 3.5-gigawatt wind farm that will transmit power from New Mexico to California over 550 miles. The developer claims it will be the greatest wind facility in the Western Hemisphere by 2026, providing three times more power than the Hoover Dam.

The project is crucial to California’s climate goals because it will boost clean power in the evening when wind speeds increase, solar generation drops, and natural gas generation rises. SunZia is one of two big wind projects for California’s energy needs. In 2029, Wyoming’s 3.5-GW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm will be connected by a 732-mile transmission line.

“Those projects were ahead of their time,” said GridLab executive director Ric O’Connell. “100% clean goals were laughable when they started. Six Western states aim for 100%. The world is different.”

SunZia reached several important milestones. It agreed to sell 575 megawatts to California community choice aggregator Clean Power Alliance in November. Pattern announced last month that it had received $11 billion in financing and started construction. GE Vernova announced on Tuesday that the project had ordered 674 turbines, its highest order. Vestas Wind Systems will supply 242 turbines to SunZia, its largest onshore wind contract.

It’s crucial for the wind business. Wind installations decreased in 2023 as turbine makers reported rising financial losses and transmission limits, site issues, and solar rivalry clouded future progress.

GE, which plans to spin off its renewable and power operations into a public company in the second quarter, is pleased with the order. Though its grid and onshore wind business made money in the third quarter, GE’s renewable division has struggled to profit. Late January will see the company’s annual results.

GE said it will build SunZia turbine components in Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. Vic Abate, GE Vernova’s wind division CEO, credited the Inflation Reduction Act for “enabling our continued investments in wind technology, domestic manufacturing and product quality.”

These expenditures are helping the government decarbonize the power grid to meet climate change goals, he said.

The Inflation Reduction Act provides $369 billion in clean energy tax credits.

Vestas struggled financially in 2023. It lost money in the second quarter and made a little money in the third. Company executives indicated most SunZia turbine components would be made in the US.

“We’re continuing to see a surge in demand for renewable energy and we are proud to be at the forefront of this transformation,” Vestas North America President Laura Beane said.

Analysts said SunZia might boost the wind industry but warned that other wind projects face problems. Due to land use limits and transmission capacity issues, Samantha Woodworth, a Wood Mackenzie industry analyst, predicts “few and far between” gigawatt-scale installations like SunZia and Chokecherry Sierra Madre.

She anticipated wind farm installations will rise above 2023 levels but not reach pre-pandemic levels. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that wind capacity installations fell to 6.9 GW last year from above 14 GW in 2020 and 2021. Inflation and doubts regarding tax benefits under the Inflation Reduction Act continue to slow wind growth, Woodworth said.

However, SunZia’s success depended on transmission line permissions.

“The location is economical before tax credits, so the project’s success depended mostly on the transmission line. Woodworth noted in an email that timely transmission upgrades or construction is crucial to the onshore industry’s viability.

SunZia has experienced many challenges since its 2006 proposal. Birders have protested its 550-mile transmission line, which was moved 100 miles to address Defense Department concerns about its proximity to a missile range and briefly delayed last year owing to Native American objections. The Biden administration approved the project after promising to speed up environmental studies of key transmission projects.

“The government stepped up to make sure we got permits,” Pattern Energy CEO Hunter Armistead told E&E News in November.

SunZia is a megaproject in practically every way. Pattern executives predict SunZia will power three million households. Three times as much energy as the 1-GW Great Prairie Wind project in Texas, the largest wind farm in operation. Only six power facilities in the nation exceed 3.5 GW.

Pattern has compared SunZia to the Hoover Dam, saying it will generate three times as much power. An official from SunZia wouldn’t reveal its capacity factor. If SunZia reached the national wind fleet’s average capacity factor of 36 percent, it could generate about 11 terawatt-hours of power annually. The Hoover Dam generated 3.9 TWh annually between 2018 and 2022, according to EIA data.

Pattern assistant vice president of business development Kevin Wetzel said the project’s first turbines will be erected in the second half of 2024. The transmission line will reach New Mexico and end south of Phoenix in 2025, and the wind farm in 2026.

School Construction Projects Are Influenced by Emails

Original Source: Emails show extent of influence on school construction projects

Records show that Connecticut’s school construction office tried to steer millions of dollars in demolition and abatement work at local schools to two hazardous material companies for nearly two years without letting other companies compete. 

Municipal leaders and school construction teams repeatedly alleged state authorities told them to select AAIS Corp. of West Haven or Bestech Inc. of Ellington.

A furious Hartford school building committee member concluded that AAIS payment was out of their hands. 

Fairfield’s school building committee chairman claimed he was told to “use the state-approved vendor, which is Bestech.” 

The middle school project manager in Enfield hired AAIS because of “the requirement of the office of school construction grants.”

Manchester’s elementary school reconstruction manager said “the powers that be” in state government told the town to approach only one business for hazmat work, which he called “crazy.” 

The manager referred to Konstantinos Diamantis, the former head of Connecticut’s Office of School Construction Grants and Review, and Michael Sanders, the 2019 “asbestos expert” who joined Diamantis’ small team of state employees. 

Since a federal grand jury began examining the school construction office in early 2022, Diamantis and Sanders have been scrutinized.  

The CT Mirror examined more than four years of emails from Sanders, a longtime state employee who died of a drug overdose in December 2021, just after the state received its first federal subpoena. 

Those communications describe recurrent school construction office efforts to award local school contracts to AAIS or Bestech, both of which were state-approved hazmat businesses.

Sanders stated in an early 2020 email that that narrow list of vendors would perform all school demolition and abatement projects. 

Have no doubts. All school construction abatement and demolition will be state-contracted!” Sanders emailed a Groton construction manager.

By then, AAIS and Bestech had won practically all Connecticut state-owned park, prison, courtroom, and office building restoration contracts. The emails show Sanders and Diamantis wanted to expand the companies’ reach to local school projects.  

Sanders and Diamantis claimed that hiring AAIS or Bestech to work on school projects would save municipalities money because the corporations would bill municipalities by the hour and material needed.

Sanders began influencing school projects in the second half of 2019, and by early 2020, he was directly choosing which demolition and abatement business to hire.

According to the records, Diamantis also allowed Sanders to be in charge of local school hazmat contracts before resigning shortly after federal investigators subpoenaed the state.  

Sanders and school project construction managers repeatedly emphasized that Diamantis was “on board” and “very supportive” of the new “directives” provided to Connecticut towns and cities. 

Summary of today’s construction news

In summary, the company intends to start building the project’s first turbines in the second half of 2024, according to a statement from Kevin Wetzel, assistant vice president of business development at Pattern. While the wind farm is projected to be finished in 2026, the transmission line, which would span New Mexico and end south of Phoenix, is estimated to be finished in 2025.

On the other hand, officials from a number of towns and localities, including Groton and Bristol, claimed that at that point the two men forced them to hire AAIS or Bestech instead of going through the standard bidding procedure for building projects for schools. However, emails, meeting minutes, and other records that The Connecticut Mirror was able to obtain demonstrate that the effort to award contracts to the two hazmat companies went far beyond what had previously been stated. This push persisted even after complaints from other contractors were forwarded to the highest echelons of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.