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2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards -- Projects of the Year

The nominations have been reviewed; the editors votes are in and we are now pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards for Project of the Year. This year's Projects of the Year Award winners represented facilities that signified excellence in 5 technologies: Solar, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal and Hydro.

Editors from the Renewable Energy World network, which includes five print magazines and four websites, selected the winners from among the five finalists in each technology category. “So many cutting-edge projects are announced, funded, constructed and finalized each year, it’s great to take time out and actually recognize the best ones for the way in which they advance the industry,” said one network editor.

To be eligible for an award, a project needs to have been completed in 2010, be in North America and make a significant impact on the entire renewable energy industry.  When judging the finalists, network editors considered the innovative technology that was employed as well as the projects’ impact on the industry at large and on the communities in which they were installed.

The award winners were announced and recognized at the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo, in Tampa, Florida. Video interviews were conducted with the winners during the show and will be posted on in the coming weeks.

Solar Project of the Year – Sempra Generation’s Copper Mountain Solar Facility           

When the 48-megawatt (MW) Copper Mountain Solar facility, located in Boulder City, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas went online in December 2010, it became the largest utility-scale PV power plant in the U.S.  Construction of the project took less than 1 year and at peak, 350 construction jobs were created.

Engineering, procurement and construction contractor First Solar of Tempe, Ariz., supplied the 775,000 solar panels that were installed on the 380-acre site. During construction, 103,000 steel posts (which hold the brackets that hold the panels) were installed using lasers and GPS technology to ensure the rows of panels (some ~2.5 miles long) were straight.

Power from the project is sold to Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California under a 20-year contract.  California utilities are required to get 33% of their power supply from alternative sources like wind and solar by 2020.

 “Safely completing construction on a solar power facility of this magnitude in less than a year is an unprecedented achievement,” said William R. Engelbrecht, Sempra Generation’s vice president of planning and construction in a press release.  Engelbrecht accepted the award on behalf of the companies involved.

“This is a massive project, and Sempra Generation’s construction team, working with First Solar, did an outstanding job of meeting our aggressive goal to build the entire project by the end of the year,” he said.

Wind Project of the Year – The Greensburg Wind Farm

In May 2007, an EF-5 tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas, destroying 95% of the town and leaving a path of devastation two miles wide. Eleven of the town’s 1,400 residents died in the disaster. In their communal search for meaning in the days that followed this catastrophe, the people of Greensburg individually and collectively agreed to rebuild their town as “the greenest town in America." In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama said, “Greensburg … is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.”   

The Greensburg Wind Farm—which includes 10 Suzlon wind turbines, 1.25 MW each—grew out of this vision.  The project was developed by Exelon Wind, LLC (formerly John Deere Renewables, LLC) and went live in March 2010.   Total project cost was $23.3 million, with a loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development providing $17.4 million and the remainder of project funded through an equity investment from John Deere Wind Energy and gap funding from NativeEnergy, Inc.

NativeEnergy is the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) marketer for this project.  A portion of the project’s REC output will provide the town with wind power to help it achieve its goal of being the “greenest town in America.”  The majority of the RECs will be purchased by NativeEnergy for its clients, for whom the energy generated by the wind farm will displace fossil-based energy and reduce hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon pollution that otherwise would enter our atmosphere.  

Biomass Project of the Year – The Wild Center’s High Efficiency Commercial Scale Wood Gasification Boiler Integrated with a Solar Thermal Collection and Storage System

The Wild Center is a 54,000 square foot natural history museum in Tupper Lake, NY.  In July 2009, the Center embarked on a project in which it built a 1.7-million-BTU Advanced Climate Technology boiler that would fired by locally produced FSC certified wood pellets.  In addition the center incorporated a solar-thermal hot water array and storage system to further boost the efficiency of the heating system and provide low-emission heating in moderate-temperature months.  The project was finalized in May 2010 and has won the 2011 Biomass project of the year.

The project combines a low emissions commercial scale wood gasification heating plant, the first of its kind and size manufactured in the U.S. and installed in a visitor experience facility, with a 0.35 million BTU/day solar thermal collection and storage system. The solar thermal collection system contributes BTUs to the wood boiler's hydronic heating water loop during the shoulder season heating months of April - May and September-October, reducing boiler cycling. 

The project incorporated an unusual solution for the storage of wood pellet fuel. Rather than construct a tall and conventional silo-like structure on facility grounds, the museum opted to purchase a recycled 40-foot long shipping container and placed it on edge in 4 steel cradles, providing an inexpensive, yet practical and attractive alternative for storing 22 tons of wood fuel. (See image, above.)  

The Wild Center also created and installed a public information display on the project including two tabletop exhibits that highlight the benefits of the biofuel and solar thermal technologies. Given the blending of two renenwable energy technologies, coupled with the exposure of the project to the museum's nearly 100,000 annual visitors, the project is a prominent and educationally valuable bioenergy/solar energy demonstration project.

Geothermal Project of the Year – Ormat’s Jersey Valley Geothermal Power Plant

While 2010 proved to be a slow year for geothermal development in the U.S., Ormat Technologies, Inc. successfully brought online its 15MW Jersey Valley geothermal power plant in December.  Jersey Valley was the only utility-scale geothermal plant completed in 2010. (See image, right)

The project, known as a Greenfield geothermal project, began in 2006 and encountered a number of obstacles along its development path. A Greenfield geothermal project is defined as an area where the productivity of a geothermal field is unknown; similar to drilling for oil where no oil has ever been found.

Located at the northern end of Dixie Valley, Jersey Valley rests along the Pershing-Lander County, Nev. line.  The geothermal area encompasses the Jersey Valley Mining District that had been the focus of gold and silver mining and mineral exploration since the district was founded in 1873.  Ormat’s geothermal power plant is located next to the remains of one of these old mining settlements.

Initial testing on the site indicated a good resource but once drilling actually began, engineers realized that the resource was potentially much larger and more complex than they had anticipated.  This resulted in a flurry of activities that needed to be accomplished to accommodate the new, more complex model than the one that had been predicted.  Engineers needed to reevaluate exploration techniques by calibrating the models from drilling results.

Today, construction is complete and Jersey Valley is utilizing the Ormat Energy Converter to generate electricity. Throughout this project, the team’s ability to adapt to the changing resource models proved key to completing the project on time.

“While Ormat encountered problems with potential to halt the project, something typical of the geothermal industry, the company accomplished this feat because it has the tools needed to create positive results when the situation may not be ideal,” the company said in its nomination statement.

Hydro Project of the Year – The Toba Montrose Hydroelectric Project

The 235MW Toba Montrose Hydroelectric power project is made up of two sites that together make it the largest independent Run-of-River hydro project in British Columbia.  Construction on the project took 3 years.

The Toba site was completed 5 weeks ahead of schedule and Montrose (shown, left) was 3 months ahead of schedule.  The construction contract with Peter Kiewit Sons was worth $497 million.  During construction of the project, direct employment peaked at over 600 people, with as many as 450 people on site at any one time, including up to 30% in local hires, with many from Canada’s First Nations. 

Total project cost of $663 million came from Plutonic Power Corporation, the project developer, with much of the debt financing from GE Energy Financial Services.

The local community reaped significant benefits from the project in terms of services provided, including housing, supplies and more.  A “buy local” procurement policy was in place and over 15% or $75 million was spent locally.

Project challenges involved complex permitting and environmental monitoring issues and adapting and performing construction on the remote, rugged terrain. Project developers also had to educate the public on the benefits of run of river development in the province of BC. 

According to the company’s nomination form, “It is a testament to the partnership between Plutonic and GE EFS, the dedication and skill of the people working on the project and the commitment from everyone involved, that this project was completed on time, on budget and is now operating efficiently. 

Renewable Energy World Readers’ Choice Project: Pocono Raceway Solar Farm

The 3 MW Pocono Raceway Solar Farm is the largest solar PV project installed at a sports complex globally. And considering that Nascar racing is one of the most popular sports in the U.S., the system has one of the highest profiles as well.

Commissioned in August of 2010 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, the $16 million Pocono Raceway project was constructed by renewable energy developer EnXco and features 40,000 thin-film modules from First Solar.

The system is expected to generate around 72 million-kilowatt hours of electricity over the next 20 years, providing enough energy to power the stadium and 1,000 surrounding homes. That will save the Pocono Raceway around $380,000 in energy costs.

In December of 2010, EnXco announced that the 25-acre system had already generated 1 GWh of electricity.

The project proves that solar works and can save organizations money. It's also novel in that it exposes the technology to a wide range of car racing fans who come to the Pocono Raceway and readers agreed.

After tallying almost 9,000 votes for the Reader's Choice Award, the 3-MW Pocono Raceway Solar Farm came out as the clear winner.

To recognize its novelty, its economic benefit and its popularity among our audience, the 2011 Reader's Choice Award goes to the Pocono Raceway Solar Farm.

To see the complete list of Excellence in Renewable Energy Award winners, click here.  Innovation winners will be profiled on Thursday, March 10th and Leadership winners will be profiled on Friday, March 11.

For more on the projects of the year, play the video below.



To see more on the Pocono Solar Raceway, the 2011 Readers' Choice award winner, play the video below.


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