June 30, 2005

AGC testifies on Capitol Hill to support a multi-employer pension bill

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recently testified at a hearing on Capitol Hill before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue. A representative from the organization urged Congress to pass a multi-employer pension bill that would increase the maximum deductibility limit to 140% of current liability.

Chuck Clark, a member of AGC’s Michigan chapter, said that if Congress would pass the bill, the construction industry could avoid the funding problems it faced in 2002.

AGC has been working with the Multi-Employer Plan Coalition, a group of employers, unions, and trustees on the Taft-Hartley plans, to address the needs of multi-employer plans for the construction industry and beyond. The coalition created a legislative proposal, presented it to Congress, and worked to ensure that the majority of its recommendations were a part of the House bill.

June 29, 2005

Social Security Administration teams with ComEd on solar installation in Chicago

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently signed a contract with ComEd to complete one of the largest solar energy installations in the Midwest atop the SSA building in Chicago. The system’s solar panels will produce as much as 82kW of electricity—enough energy to power 50 average homes—and should be complete in August.

Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the system will displace more than four million pounds of the primary greenhouse gas CO2 over its 30-year design life, which is equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 20 acres of trees. The system will also save the equivalent of almost 6,000 barrels of oil.

ComEd is providing support to cover 7,920 square feet of the building's roof space with PV modules, which will convert 18.5% of the solar energy to electrical energy. The company is also using a specially designed PV tile system that offers roof shading and protection from ultraviolet rays, while providing thermal energy savings in winter.

June 28, 2005

Sea Gull Lighting Products announces lighting design competition winners

Sea Gull Lighting Products recently announced the five winners of its 1st Annual Ambiance Design Competition. The winners were chosen based on their innovative, fashion-driven, and trend-setting applications using Ambiance lighting systems.

Professional Lighting & Design, Greensboro, N.C., received first place honors for its use of rail, pendant, and fluorescent lighting in the redesign of a luxury kitchen in Greensboro. Michelle Mangan of Michelle Mangan Designs, LLC took home the second place award for her redesign of a library in a showcase luxury home in Denver.

Honorable mention awards went to Kimball Derrick of the Kitchen Design Studio in Cincinnati, John McNicholas of McNicholas Lighting Restoration in Barnegat, N.J., and Al Thomas of Seattle Lighting.

June 27, 2005

GE to reorganize into six industry-focused business units

General Electric recently announced that effective July 5, it will reorganize its 11 businesses into six industry-focused businesses: GE Infrastructure, GE Industrial, GE Commercial Financial Services, NBC Universal, GE Healthcare, and GE Consumer Finance. GE Chairman-CEO Jeff Immelt said that the company believes it can reduce $200-300 million of cost in savings and structural redundancies.

June 24, 2005

NECA updates guidebook of OSHA safety standards

Eight years after its first release, NECA’s OSHA Safety & Health Standards Digest for Electrical Construction Workers has been revised and re-released. In 24 pages, the booklet book summarizes OSHA regulations that apply to electrical construction worksites.

Small enough to fit in a back pocket or a tool bucket, it’s like Cliff’s Notes for safety standards. “It condenses hundreds of pages of OSHA regulations into a collection of key principles and steps that every employee can understand and apply,” says Mark Lamendola, the booklet’s author – and previous EC&M editor.

The OSHA Digest is available to NECA members for $3 and can be ordered online at www.necanet.org.store.

June 23, 2005

USGBC receives financial support for energy efficiency standard

In a move that could increase the affordable housing community’s involvement in energy-efficient design, the Home Depot Foundation recently extended a $375,000 grant to the U.S. Green Building Council for its new LEED for Homes rating system. The system, which awards points and certification for energy-efficient building practices, is intended to provide a tool for home builders, homeowners, and local governments for building resource-efficient living spaces.

In particular, the grant will benefit the Initiative for Affordable Housing, which will include a reference manual, pilot demonstration of LEED for Homes in six markets, and new affordable housing training sessions at the Greenbuild International Conference and Exposition this November in Atlanta.

Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president and CEO said he hopes the grant will broaden the energy efficiency standard’s reach in the affordable housing market.

June 22, 2005

Two Denver electrical contractors merge

Guarantee Electrical Contracting of Denver and the Denver office of Cache Valley Electric (CVE) merged last week. The move will allow Guarantee, which focuses on electrical construction, building automation, and security projects to add tele-data capabilities to its offerings.

Jim Riney, president of Guarantee in Denver, made the announcement. Terms of the merger weren’t disclosed.

CVE Denver will now operate as Guarantee Electrical Contracting, and all of CVE’s key field personnel will be retained.

June 20, 2005

Merck & Co. gives Instrumentation & Controls Contractor of the Year award

Merck & Co. recently gave Instrumentation & Controls (ICI) its Contractor of the Year award for outstanding safety performance in 2004. The company was nominated for its consistent quality, and close attention to all safety aspects, from housekeeping to worker attitude and behavior.

Merck referenced the 75B lab and office project at its West Point, Pa, site as evidence of ICI’s safety record. The company put in more than 25,000 hours on the project with no lost-time or recordable incidents. Merck noted that the company’s staff and safety representatives receive the most up-to-date training on NFPA 70E guidelines, electrical safety, and best work practices.

June 17, 2005

Michigan Electric Transmission hires ABB to build computer system

Michigan Electric Transmission recently hired ABB to design and build the transmission operations computer system for its new 35,000-square foot operations center at the Southbelt Industrial Park of Caledonia Township, near Grand Rapids, Mich.

The system is a multi-million dollar project that will take approximately 16 months to complete, and will be constructed in a factory before being installed in the operations center. The project is scheduled to begin in August 2005 and wrap up in April 2006. The system is scheduled to be installed in May 2006 and should complete on-site testing in August 2006.

June 16, 2005

Northern Power Systems to design and construct PV system for Timberland

Northern Power Systems, a subsidiary of Distributed Energy Systems, recently agreed to design, engineer, and construct a 401.8kW solar power system at Timberland's 429,000-square-foot Ontario distribution center in Southern California. The system is expected to produce almost 60% of the facility’s electrical load.

The photovoltaic (PV) system will be installed on a new TruckPort steel mounting structure adjacent to Timberland's warehouse. A total of 1,960 PV modules will be mounted on the structure in strings of 14 each.

Under California's Self-Generation Incentive Program, Timberland will be eligible for a rebate of more than $1.5 million. By delivering as much as 60% of the facility's energy needs, the new power system is also expected to create a hedge against potential critical peak pricing surcharges of as much as $1/kWh, which may be put into effect in California over the next several summers.

Timberland will retain all of the green credits associated with the power generated by the system, which represents the value of the emissions-free generation of the PV system compared to the emissions—CO2, SO2 and NOx, particulate matter, and other pollutants—associated with power that would normally come from the grid.

June 15, 2005

Reed Construction Data joins forces with ConstructionJobs.com

Reed Construction Data recently announced an alliance with ConstructionJobs.com to integrate its job board and resume database into a new online Construction Employment Center at www.reedconstructiondata.com.

The Center will allow users to search for job opportunities across the country and register their resumes for free. It will also allow employers to post open positions to an established job board platform, as well as search inside the national candidate database and activate automatic search agents that can e-mail qualified resumes daily.

June 14, 2005

AGC approves House introduction of pension bill

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recently congratulated the House for introducing legislation that would increase the maximum deductibility limit to 140% of current liability. AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said that the pension bill is especially beneficial to the construction industry because it’s the number one user of multi-employer pension plans.

In 2001 and 2002, AGC found that multi-employer pension funds were facing funding deficiencies because the maximum deducibility limit was 100%, and that it was difficult to create sufficient savings plans in the event of a downturn in the market. According to the AGC, the House proposal would allow the plans to save more for future retirees and avoid funding shortfalls in the future.

AGC has been working with the Multi-Employer Plan Coalition, a group of employers, unions, and trustees on the Taft-Hartley plans, to address the needs of multi-employer plans for the construction industry and beyond. The Coalition created a legislative proposal, presented it to Congress, and worked to ensure that the majority of its recommendations were a part of the House bill.

June 13, 2005

Guarantee Electrical creates low-voltage division

Guarantee Electrical recently created GECO Systems/Tel-Vi, a consolidated group that handles all electrical systems and low-voltage work. The group offers voice and data infrastructure, temperature control, life safety, security, and audio-visual services.

Services that will carry over from Tel-Vi include V/D/V network installation, structured cabling and specialty fiber optics services, and outside underground plant services. Additional services that will be rolled into the division are fire alarm, nurse call, intercom, and other low-voltage applications.

Patrick McSalley has been appointed vice president of operations for the group. He was most recently vice president of the company’s Illinois operations and the service department.

June 10, 2005

Wiremold/Legrand launches online tool for customizing raceway device plates

Wiremold/Legrand recently launched an online tool at www.wiremold.com that configures 4047 series device cover plates for 4000 and 6000 series metal raceways. Users of the site can choose from options like size, color, and devices as well as receive the part number and list price for ordering.

The three-step process includes a choice of 2- and 4-gang cover plates in either ivory or gray, and a drag-and-drop function assists in selecting from among 12 device configurations. Users can choose from receptacle options like standard single and duplex openings as well as Pass & Seymour’s PlugTail pre-pigtailed 20A receptacles.

June 9, 2005

London homeowners to have the chance to purchase rooftop wind turbines

A new trend across the pond could someday make its way to the states. London’s Evening Standard reports that homeowners will soon have the chance to buy roof-mounted wind turbines that could reduce their electricity bills by hundreds of pounds. British Gas will put the 5-foot wide turbines on the market later this year for about 1,500 pounds.

The initiative came after new research showed that almost 250,000 homes in London are interested in installing renewable energy systems. The miniature turbines are ideal for Britain’s breezy climate and could provide enough power to supply “always on” appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, TVs, and computers that are on standby. Days with more wind could provide enough generated electricity to keep some lights on.

June 8, 2005

Schneider Electric opens new Sensor Competency Center in Ohio

On May 1, Schneider Electric opened its Sensor Competency Center (SCC) in Dayton, Ohio. The SCC brings together the company’s Hyde Park and Telemecanique sensor lines and will serve as a single, integrated resource for technical and application support for the sensor industry.

With a staff of more than 60 team members, the SCC will provide information for all types and models of Hyde Park and Telemecanique sensors, including inductive, capacitive, photoelectric, and ultrasonic. The center will also offer support in areas such as applications, product support and selection, sales and service, and product modification.

June 7, 2005

Hawaiian Electric awards S&C Electric rights to wind energy storage device

Hawaiian Electric recently awarded S&C Electric’s Milwaukee, Wis.-based power quality products division exclusive design and manufacturing rights to a grid stabilizing device for wind farms. The Electronic Shock Absorber (ESA) patented by Hawaiian Electric, combines super capacitor energy storage and power-electronic inverter modules with an advanced control system.

The ESA will store excess power during times of suddenly amplified generation and release the energy supply during times of suddenly reduced generation. The system will also trade reactive power with the grid to reduce voltage variations, which will enhance the capability of a wind farm to ride through transient fault conditions on the grid.

Dr. Karl Stahlkopf, Hawaiian Electric’s senior vice president for energy solutions and chief technology officer is hopeful about the potential for the ESA. “If successful, the ESA will stabilize a wind farm’s energy fluctuations,” Stahlkopf says. “The better fluency and voltage control of the transmission system will increase wind generation in Hawaii.”

A demonstration ESA is expected to be installed and operational on the island of Hawaii by late 2005.

June 6, 2005

United States government awards $2 million grant to NanoDynamics

The United States government recently awarded Buffalo, N.Y.-based NanoDynamics a $2 million grant to develop a methane gas fuel cell. The grant was awarded as part of an energy and water appropriations bill in the House of Representatives and will help the company develop a fuel cell to keep water treatment plants running in the event of a power outage. The grant will allow the company to add five to 10 engineers to its workforce.

June 3, 2005

First Solar LLC breaks ground on a solar panel plant in Ohio

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based First Solar LLC recently broke ground on a second $74 million solar panel plant in Perrysburg Township, Ohio. The expansion will include $11 million for a building, $60 million in machinery and equipment, and $3.3 million in inventory.

When the project is finished in 2007, the capacity of this company’s complex will triple to nearly 1 million panels a year, which are capable of producing 75MW of power. About 95% of the panels will go to Germany where there are large subsidies to support the installation of solar and wind panels.

The company expects to book its first-ever profit in 2005 on the sale of more than 300,000 panels. Ken Schultz, marketing vice president for the company, says that a portion of the revenue received on the sale of each panel will be paid to an insurance company that will issue a policy to cover recycling costs.

June 2, 2005

Contractual lien waivers outlawed in Tennessee starting July 1

Starting July 1, contractual lien waivers will be illegal in Tenneesee. After American Subcontractors Association (ASA) members in the state called for reform on May 19, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) signed H.B. 743, amending Section 66-11-124 of the Tenneesee Code to state that “Any contract provision that purports to waive any right of lien under this chapter is void and unenforceable as against the public policy of this state.”

ASA of Middle Tennessee government relations chairman Robert E. Lee explained that Tennessee subcontractors wanted to put an end to the practice of contractual lien waivers because they felt subcontractors and contractors were being manipulated out of the security that mechanics liens provide. “The importance of the legislation is that by state law, subcontractors can’t lose their rights to file mechanic’s liens just by agreeing to take on work,” Lee says.

Rep. Charles Curtiss (D-43) introduced the legislation in the Tennessee House, and Sen. Don McLeary (D-27) introduced the companion bill in the Senate. After legislators viewed examples of contractual lien waivers the legislation passed both chambers unanimously.

June 1, 2005

Southern Co. and the Georgia Institute of Technology partner for wind farm

Southern Co. and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently announced they will collaborate on the Southeast’s first offshore wind power project off the coast of Savannah, Ga. The project has the potential to be the first of its kind completed in the United States.

In the past the Southeast wasn’t considered a prime location for an offshore wind turbine, but Dr. Sam Sheldon, leader of the Georgia Tech group, proved otherwise when he analyzed six years of wind data collected from Navy platforms located off the coast of Savannah. He found that the strong westerlies that blow along Georgia’s coastal waters and the area’s extensive shallow water at distances beyond the shoreline view, make this a prime location for an offshore wind demonstration project.

The first phase of the project will examine different technology options for wind turbines, platforms/foundations, submarine cabling, and grid interconnection as well as analyze site location and environmental regulations and jurisdictions like permitting requirements.