On September 15, Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 2408, forming the Illinois Energy Transition Act. The Act advances renewable energy goals and the path to carbon-free electricity generation by 2045. To say this bill will impact the Illinois electrical utility landscape is an understatement.
Illinois is a top energy producer and consumer in the upper Midwest. The Act requires displacement of more than 6,000 MWh provided from coal and natural gas. One average MWh is enough to power 796 homes for a year in the U.S.
Energy efficiencies and implementing alternative energy resources will be an increasingly important strategy to mitigate the cost impacts from this Act to all users: residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal.
SCS supports clients with the decommissioning and legacy management of coal-fired facilities and renewable energy development. Our environmental team in Illinois includes local experts, Scott Knoepke and Richard Southorn who support the management of coal-fired facilities with Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) and assist utilities transitioning to renewable natural gas installments and solar energy sources. For coal-fired facilities with CCR impoundments, SCS’s Illinois Office provides design, closure, construction quality assurance, and site stewardship (e.g., long-term maintenance, groundwater monitoring, and reporting).
SCS uses a specialized team for solar implementation on landfills and Brownfields. Knoepke and Southorn are supported by SCS National Experts in the region to assess and implement Solar Energy on Landfills & Brownfields.
The Act defines that landfill gas produced in Illinois as a renewable energy resource. SCS Engineers has one of the longest and most successful Biogas practices in the United States. SCS designs, constructs, and operates more Biogas, Anaerobic Digestion, Renewable Natural Gas, Ag Digester systems than any other engineering firm in the nation. Our clients attribute our quality and high production rates to our practice specializing in waste gas utilization, combined with our expertise in solid waste management and compliance.
In August, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced nearly $34 million in funding for 11 projects that will support high-impact research and development to improve and produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. These biomass resources, otherwise known as feedstocks, can be produced by municipal solid waste (MSW) streams and algae and converted into low-carbon fuels that can significantly contribute to the decarbonization of transportation sectors that face barriers to electrification, like aviation and marine.
Transportation accounts for approximately 30% of total U.S. energy consumption and generates the largest share of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels serve as a low-carbon alternative to petroleum and can also be used to produce carbon-heavy products like plastics, fertilizers, lubricants, and industrial chemicals.
Among the DOE recipients is a team led by Stephanie Lansing, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland (UMD). Lansing is leading a consortium of scientists and industry partners to research innovative ways to use waste and to make value-added products that will contribute to the sustainability of our economy and planet.
SCS Engineers is an environmental engineering firm specializing in waste management and renewable energy from waste products. SCS is on the Lansing team focusing on biofuel production. The team includes Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, Virginia Tech, Idaho National Lab, and Quasar Energy Group. Their first task is to conduct a waste characterization study across every U.S. region during every season of the year, to understand how location and the time of year affect landfills’ incoming waste. The results help determine what the biofuel potential of that waste is.
Another Lansing team will be working toward producing bioplastics that are made without using fossil fuels and degrade much more easily than current plastic products.
The biofuel and bioplastic projects involve sustainability and economic assessments comparing them to current products on the market to see how marketable these new products can be. And the reason why Lansing’s comprehensive teams are important; they will help commercialize any new products.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stated in the DOE August 3 press release, “The companies and universities leading these projects will ensure that our cutting-edge biofuel technologies reduce carbon emissions, create new jobs up and down the supply chain, and are made in America by American workers.”
Progressive energy companies are rushing to corner the growing hydrogen market, excited as they see this renewable fuel’s cost steadily drop and as they prioritize decarbonization.
As they work to stay ahead of the pack, they need to put time and thought into building out and implementing these projects. There are complex technical and regulatory considerations; safety is also priority one at every step when managing this flammable, compressed gas.
As the market takes off, there is a need for scaled development along the whole supply chain, and some developers are rising to the occasion for more control and more opportunity. Rather than only build fueling stations, they buy into vertically integrated hydrogen networks to produce, transport and distribute hydrogen. But these multifaceted projects present even more complexity— calling for a team with highly specialized, comprehensive skill sets.
SCS Engineers supports energy companies and contractors looking to diversify their hydrogen services portfolio to include building production plants, including moving the gas via pipeline or truck to offload at fueling stations, ultimately selling to consumers.
“We enter these strategic partnerships to give our clients what they are looking for: a full spectrum of competencies and services; and a proven history of working on hydrogen to deliver turnkey projects. The idea is to take the environmental burden off clients as they pursue these major undertakings,” says Nathan Eady, an SCS vice president, and project manager.
SCS makes site selection; performs environmental due diligence and remediation; feasibility analysis; design and construction of environmental controls; land use, air, and water quality permitting.
The contractors’ specializations are detailed design, engineering, and construction management–from civil to structural to mechanical and fire protection.
This team meets all environmental and regulatory design requirements and develops process safety management and risk management plans with their combined expertise. They also take on the role of community educator, explaining the unique attributes of hydrogen and easing any concerns.
“We take science and engineering and translate that for neighbors and city councils. It’s important to show communities, as well as regulators, that these facilities are designed and operated with the utmost safety,” Eady says.
Requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But with a national reach, SCS sails through processes and regulations by region.
“That matters to our clients; they want to get through the detailed permitting steps and launch as soon as they can to maintain their competitive edge. And when they plan to expand into other regions, they like to know they already have a vetted team in place who knows the territory and can do the work there,” he says.
Permitting and technical considerations vary by location and production method, whether via steam methane reforming (SMR) or electrolysis.
Some operators are taken off-guard by the air quality permitting requirements associated with SMR facilities − or the stringent wildlife and water quality regulations encountered with the larger footprint photovoltaic systems requiring open space to support electrolysis. SCS has the expertise to address the issues, whether state-specific cap and trade regulations for carbon emissions or air basin specific criteria pollutants. SCS also has the unique talent of finding brownfield sites or closed landfill properties, making excellent receiver sites for electrolysis and solar facilities near existing infrastructure.
Building hydrogen projects on these idle properties can save developers significant time and money in the overall project outcome.
“We do a lot of brownfield work helping to clean and redevelop these properties. These sites have special permitting considerations, especially since they typically have a history of industrial use,” Eady says.
SCS performs Phase I Assessments to research records on previous use, and if the team finds a potential problem, they move to Phase II, which entails groundwater and soil testing.
“If we find evidence of existing contamination, we reconcile it so our clients can move forward with the development of their new facilities,” Eady says.
SCS is seeing a growing interest in building hydrogen projects on closed landfills. As brownfields, they have value for their open space and often have some existing infrastructure, offsetting the cost of building new.
“We have done permitting and design work on several closed landfills, sometimes adding solar systems. Hydrogen projects leveraging electrolysis require a tremendous amount of electricity, and when we can bypass the grid enabling clients to make their own electricity, it’s a major plus,” Eady says.
Lately, large energy companies are pivoting from conventional oil and gas to hydrogen, and some smaller, young companies are also joining the clean renewables movement.
SCS has gotten interest from startups looking to obtain government grants and subsidies. Some of these firms need more process engineering support to ensure their new technology can operate at a cost and environmental efficacy equivalent to larger operations.
“We use our knowledge gained working with major conventional energy companies to support these new hydrogen firms in executing successful launches. All in all, a positive trend.”
Together, SCS and its partners play an integral role in helping to see hydrogen continue to climb the energy sector ranks, maintaining an excellent record of accomplishment supporting the planning-design-build of clean-energy plants.
The International Awards Committee and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Board of Directors unanimously voted to honor Tom Conrad, the “C” in SCS, with the Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award at WASTECON 2021 in November. The Lawrence award is the highest accolade SWANA bestows on a member of the waste management industry, reserved for those making meaningful and lasting contributions.
“I’m honored and humbled to be selected for the Robert L. Lawrence Award. I thank you and am especially thankful for what SWANA and SCS are today,” stated Tom Conrad.
SWANA recognizes Conrad for over 60 years of significant influence on the waste management and environmental services industry. Conrad, a Founder, Executive Vice President, and Director Emeritus of SCS Engineers, dedicated his career to advancing solid waste management, most notably through the founding of SCS Engineers (Stearns, Conrad, and Schmidt Consulting Engineers) more than 51 years ago.
Tom Conrad worked on a wide range of environmental engineering projects touching almost every aspect of solid waste management throughout his career. As an environmental engineering firm and consultant to the newly created US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the founders recognized that responsible solid waste management was increasingly important for protecting the environment and the health and safety of the general public.
Leading SCS, he helped the EPA develop the first federal regulations for sanitary landfills, managing and capturing landfill gas, waste sorting protocols, sludge management, and land remediation.
Environmental services, including wastewater management, were always a significant part of SCS services and the waste industry. When new regulatory policies began expanding in the ’80s, SCS’s techniques, technology, and expertise helped a broad range of industries comply with environmental needs and continues today with the firm’s greenhouse gas, landfill technology, renewable energy, remediation, and sustainable materials management programs.
Conrad is also known for hiring and mentoring today’s SCS leaders, many of whom are SWANA leaders, by creating and fostering SCS’s culture encouraging employee participation in industry associations, community, and SCS’s mentorship and leadership programs.
Before his retirement in 2016, Conrad held professional engineering licenses in 24 states. He was a member of SWANA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Waste and Recycling Association, and the Society of American Military Engineers.
He maintains his “work hard – play hard” lifestyle. He is active at SCS, participating in Board of Director meetings and speaking at the Young Professionals Group events and celebrations. While no longer mountain climbing and biking cross-country, he has a vigorous walking, swimming, and biking schedule.
Here at SCS, we work for developers, industry, and manufacturers to help them run cleaner, safer, and more efficiently. This PBS video provides insight into how SCS brings value to the waste industry, our clients, and, most importantly, our communities.
You may ask yourself, don’t pig farms create pollution? Yes, but even that waste is reusable!
Did you know the food you buy in the grocery is supported by our environmental experts? Learn more about SCS’s environmental engineers and consultants who bring contaminated properties back to life, lower and capture greenhouse gases for fuels and renewable energy, and make possible a brighter future.
If you are interested in becoming an SCS Engineers employee-owner, watch our comprehensive video to see the breadth of services our teams offer.
Local governments feed tens of thousands to millions of dollars into their landfills long after closure to continue protecting the environment and people, compelling some of them to find creative ways to offset post-closure maintenance costs and to potentially profit. In some cases, these localities convert closed landfills to active, useful community assets.
Two Maryland counties are among recent SCS Engineers’ clients who are converting their idle properties into revenue-generators that serve their communities—they are installing solar farms, a growing trend on closed landfills. This is consistent with the U.S. EPA’s Re-Powering America’s Land Initiative that encourages renewable energy development on landfills.
Siting solar energy installations
These sites are fairly flat, open spaces conducive to solar installation, and most are near power lines and in regions where real estate is limited and high-priced. While properties like these Maryland landfills provide ideal locations and are inexpensive, the projects command a robust multidisciplinary redevelopment approach. It takes proficiency in environmental and civil engineering designs that protect natural resources while maintaining landfill integrity. Look for consultants with both landfill and brownfields experience who know permitting processes, are up on local regulators’ hot spots, and have established relationships with energy service companies.
One of these projects on a closed county landfill will be a 6-megawatt system, sprawling over 170 acres, the largest solar project on county property. It will provide inexpensive, green electricity to low- and mid-income families, enough to power 930 homes, as well as power county buildings.
SCS Engineers was selected by Ameresco, the solar developer for both projects, to develop the required state and local permits. As the solar developer, Ameresco is performing turnkey services for the projects, including solar design, interconnection with the utility for sale of the electrical power, and operation of the solar systems consistent with a long-term agreement with both of these counties.
“This project will provide financial relief to people of the county and also help fulfill our client’s goal to advance green infrastructure and operations in county buildings,” says Mike Kalish, SCS Engineers Project Manager.
A full understanding of local regulations and proven engineering designs are key to success.
Pulling together the detailed engineering components to secure the state permit and local approvals are involved processes. Knowing the regulatory programs and potential impacts of the design and construction are key to quick and efficient navigation of the approval processes. “The faster you can get through permitting, the better for communities who want access to power. The county officials have made this decision while Ameresco is investing significant capital, and we want to assist in project implementation to enable a return on that investment as soon as possible,” Kalish says.
He and his team key in on what regulators look for and their anticipated trigger points and work to stay a step ahead.
“Because of our familiarity from prior work at these sites, we were able to avoid costly site investigations, thereby saving time in the permitting processes,” Kalish says.
SCS supports clients not just in developing designs that meet regulators’ requirements but verifying, documenting, and demonstrating compliance with all aspects and considering the long-term needs. For instance, meeting the fire marshal’s codes showing the proposed roadway design meets stipulations around access into the site and around solar panel arrays.
“We also take great care to maintain the cap’s integrity and ultimately its closure certification,” Kalish says. “But we have a holistic plan that accounts for more than the cap to be sure that the landfill is in its existing condition once we complete the project. For example, the solar panels mount on a series of ballast blocks that sit on the ground surface; there is no digging involved.”
“We are attentive to mitigating impacts to natural resources and ecosystems, just as we are diligent in protecting the landfill.”
“There’s also adjacent forest we need to go through to connect to the electric grid. So, in our evaluations, we take into account design considerations and impacts to forest conservation regulations as well,” Kalish says. “Maximizing development while protecting sensitive resources, as well as valuable capital assets, is a priority.”
“That’s a quick turnaround considering the diligence and attention to detail that large solar projects require, but it’s important to our client, so it’s our priority too. This is when knowing local regulations well is most valuable. As important is that we have a long-standing relationship with the client where we know the site’s history – all key to being able to move quickly and safely.”
The SCS Engineers and Ameresco Team
SCS is working with Ameresco, one of the largest renewable energy project developers in North America. SCS and Ameresco have very complementary skills. Whereas SCS has decades of experience in landfill engineering and permitting, including varied post-closure uses for landfills such as solar, Ameresco has extensive experience with renewable energy to provide comprehensive turnkey services from electrical design to managing the interconnect to the grid to negotiating the purchase agreements for the sale of power to utilities. The teaming relationship is vital to executing successful projects from feasibility study to design, all the way to completion.
“Ameresco is a very big player in energy, and we are large in the landfill engineering space. Both companies have offices nationwide. We work on over one-third of the landfills in the United States. Together, we have an expansive reach and breadth of experience in every essential competency to offer successful solar projects on closed landfills,” Kalish says.
If you can solve their many challenges, landfills often are perfect sites for a myriad of uses. Landfill redevelopment can be smart growth, taking advantage of existing infrastructure and nearby populations to provide infill opportunities for commercial, industrial, residential, and recreational development, sometimes with an opportunity for alternative energy such as solar power. And more active use of a closed landfill site makes post-closure care more robust as compared with quarterly inspections.
If you missed SCS Engineers’ February webinar, it’s not too late! Learn more about the environmental and regulatory strategies to assess and redevelop closed landfills for reuse and, by doing so, set realistic goals toward cost-effective and sustainable economic development. SCS webinars are non-commercial, and your registration information is confidential.
Our panelists bring comprehensive expertise to the table, including scores of successful landfill redevelopment projects. Using case studies, they will cover the topics your team will need to address to meet the unique environmental and regulatory challenges of redeveloping landfills for solar or residential, or commercial use.
Thousands of acres of closed landfills in the U.S. may be suitable for redevelopment. Federal investment tax credits and state incentive programs and rebates are available, enhancing the financial viability of converting a closed landfill or Brownfields property into solar farms. Landfills have operating expenses long after closing, and renewable energy production can help offset these expenses and produce a more environmentally friendly carbon footprint.
We hope you will join us to learn about evaluating the feasibility of converting closed landfills into self-sustaining or revenue-generating assets.
SCS Engineers’ newest environmental technology application is for use at solid waste facilities and landfills. These sites require specific monitoring and analyses of groundwater and liquids, landfill gas – LFG, and surface emissions critical to facility infrastructure and the environment.
“We work side-by-side with our clients at hundreds of facilities nationwide. SCS MobileTools® supports operating decisions, whether our client is managing one site or hundreds,” states Pete Carrico, senior vice president and assistant director of SCS Field Services.” The App’s interface gives clients quick access to information that drives critical operating decisions and provides data for corporate directives and landfill gas OM&M programs for regional or national operations.
SCS MobileTools® is the iOS and Android mobile interface for the SCSeTools® platform. Access to data to make informed decisions is especially valuable when technicians are in the field, or operators are working remotely. Landfill and solid waste facility owners, operators, and technicians use the new application to observe system and environmental activity securely and in real-time on a mobile phone or device.
Featuring state-of-the-art technology, SCS MobileTools® provides users the ability to interact with a site or facility data, including site-specific monitoring and exceedance metrics for landfill gas, liquid levels, and surface emissions. Responsive, touch-enabled flow data charting is accessible, illustrating flow targets, reading dates, flow rates, and historical flow data analysis.
When compared year-over-year, generation and disposal trends produce information critical to assessing optimal options and solutions that represent significant savings for landfill gas Operations, Maintenance & Monitoring – OM&M programs. For this reason, the savings compound for regional or national operators.
For instance, monitoring and analyzing landfill gas generation and collection data against modeled estimates are valuable information. SCS MobileTools® handles the input, analysis, review, and export of landfill gas flow and related information, specifically flow rates, impacts on gas collection (e.g., extraction well liquid levels), and analytical data for data collection points.
In SCS’s release pipeline, SCS MobileTools® will include mapping and visualization functions in early 2021. SCS MobileTools® is available for download on the Apple App Store for iPhones and iPads, Google Play for Android.
Utility Dive reports that Alliant Energy announced its commitment to net-zero carbon emissions from its electricity by 2050.
The “new aspirational goal” reduces carbon emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and eliminates all coal-fired power by 2040, 10 years faster than previously planned. Alliant owns or partially owns eight coal-fired power plants across Wisconsin and Iowa — three of which are slated for retirement or conversion to natural gas.
Alliant’s announcement follows growing commitments by investor-owned utilities to move toward a more low-carbon fuel mix. Xcel Energy, Madison Gas, and Electric and Consumers Energy are among the other Midwest utilities to have made such a pledge.
Alliant reached its 30% renewables by 2030 goal this year and its “intention is [to] keep adding renewables to our energy mix,” utility spokesperson Scott Reigstad said in an email.
Alliant also said it may keep some natural gas-fired plants online, retrofitted with carbon capture or some other emissions-reducing technology, or it could also use carbon offsets to reach that goal.
EUEC 2020: The Energy, Utility & Environment Conference and Exhibition, is set to proceed as a VIRTUAL CONFERENCE, with remote access to EUEC 2020, using a brand new EUEC Mobile App that will be active April 15, 2020.
You can Register as a “Virtual Attendee” giving you the ability to network and learn all from the comfort of your mobile device.
The conference will include presentations on numerous tracks:
Click here for more information and to register