Lancaster, PA Electrician Directory

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Homeowners need electricians to install new modern circuit breaker electrical service panels replacing antiquated fuse panels. You may need extra outlets installed in an older home that didn't have electrical receptacles installed in every corner of the home. Perhaps you're installing ceiling fans and need them wired to switch panels on the walls. Or, you want to add a hot tub to your backyard and need electrical service installed. You'll find electricians available for all of these services and more here on lancaster electrical .com.

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Redefining Security: As Connectivity Accelerates, Systems Bridge Multiple Markets
Redefining Security: As Connectivity Accelerates, Systems Bridge Multiple Markets tjohnson Fri, 06/21/2019 - 14:09

Redefining Security: As Connectivity Accelerates, Systems Bridge Multiple Markets

A new suite of security product emerging from the trenches is not specific to commercial or residential only. Instead, multimarket products applicable to both are evolving as the internet of things (IoT), connectivity, and integration between systems and services continue to accelerate.

In the past, solutions were specific to residential or commercial, and there was little crossover. Commercial systems were often proprietary and closed, offering little integration to other products without heavy lifting by way of programming, modifications or additional hardware. The commercial security products market was the original test bed for many different technologies (often originating from the military and government sectors). Many were complex and expensive and couldn’t be used in the residential or even the small-to-medium business (SMB) sector.

Video analytics is a prime example of technology that is crossing over. When analytics first came on the market decades ago, the technology was hyped and overpromised. The data that was delivered was difficult for businesses to apply to security and operations. It was prone to false positives, and programming was unwieldy and time-consuming. With improvements in computing processing power, software and artificial intelligence (AI), video analytics is now common in networked security cameras. In addition, it is making its way to residential applications, capturing motion and interpreting it with deep context that enables a new breed of smart engagement.

Lower costs drive implementations

Video analytics usage in residential applications will become more common, said Brandon Niles, director of operations, Acadian Monitoring Services, Lafayette, La.

“Video analytics are becoming less expensive and often included with camera systems at no cost,” he said, adding that consumers are more knowledgeable and accepting of the technology while contractors use its features as a service differentiator. He’s most excited about AI, which he thinks will dramatically alter the industry once video and data are in place.

“Imagine the bank setting with video monitoring that gets events every time someone walks in the door,” he said. “Now imagine that same bank where we would only get events when someone in the bank is wearing a mask or a hoodie. We would be able to get the event, dispatch police or a guard, and keep them up-to-date on the potential threat even before panic buttons are activated. Right now, narrowing it down to this level just isn’t readily accessible at a price point that most people could afford. With AI, all that changes.”

With the move to increased network connectivity through broadband, cellular and Wi-Fi, security products are moving to greater applicability between markets. According to Parks Associates, Dallas, forecast sales of connected consumer devices will exceed 520 million units by 2022, including networked cameras, security systems and connected health devices, resulting in an emergence of a wealth of new residential devices.

Commercial products hit the easy button

The simplicity of consumer systems—with the rise of interactive services, the cloud and app connectivity—has also pushed commercial products in a similar direction of offering a better user experience through simpler operation.

Brad LaRock, vice president of marketing at Alula, a smart security systems provider headquartered in St. Paul, said the company is leaning into and investing heavily in this trend.

“Residential is taking advantage of things that were really formerly available only at the commercial level,” LaRock said. “Some of the products in commercial were overengineered and precluded use in residential. We are taking our broadband-based product line and extending it to both residential and small commercial.”

LaRock said the loT and network-connected activity is at the center of this ongoing transformation.

“Security has different definitions depending on the market,” he said. “The general awareness is that, once you have a network-connected device, you can bring video to life; access control to life. You are controlling who is moving in and out of the facility. That broadband, network connection is what powers that, and that’s where the core of that crossover is starting to happen. There’s a big portion of businesses that fall into the SMBs, four doors, 20 to 50 employees, who had been precluded from access control and other security because of the expense and the fact that systems were designed to serve bigger populations. Now you can serve those audiences at a more attractive price. In the same regard, the consumer system is becoming robust enough that it can serve those SMBs. That ease of use and a smooth experience is what small commercial is looking for. It’s more of a consumer feel.”

LaRock said today’s security customer wants a modern solution that blends into their life or business.

“The definition of security is redefining itself,” he said. “Different users have different views on what it means, and no one size fits all.”

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Promoting Clean Energy to the Residential Market
Promoting Clean Energy to the Residential Market tjohnson Fri, 06/21/2019 - 10:26

Promoting Clean Energy to the Residential Market

According to the just-released ninth annual "Deloitte Resources 2019 Study,” the knowledge gap between business customers and residential customers related to the benefits of clean energy is continuing to widen.

While business customers are quite familiar with the economic benefits of clean energy, such as energy management systems, energy conservation, energy source diversification, renewables procurement, solar-plus-storage, demand-response, etc.), residential customers are much less likely to be aware of these benefits. When it comes to making decisions about clean energy projects, residential customers tend to lack information on what kinds of clean energy technologies are available and what they will do. While they are concerned about climate change, they also have concerns over the initial cost of a project.

Businesses are upping the ante in managing resources, but cost and complexity still hold back residential consumers, the report states.

According to the report, "Businesses and residential consumers of electricity generally agree on the need to address climate change and reduce their carbon footprints. And both segments are interested in new and evolving technologies and applications to help them manage resources and use cleaner energy sources. But beyond that, the two groups diverge. Residential consumers are circling in a holding pattern, sometimes stymied by costs (time- and budget-related) or by the complexity or lack of options, while businesses are moving resolutely forward, becoming more sophisticated, achieving success, and upping the ante."

The report adds, "Residential customers are doing the best they can, but for many of them, the value proposition either isn't there or isn't clear."

For example, 34 percent of residential customers who stated they would not be interested in solar-plus-storage cited the reason for their lack of interest as being "uncertainty about the benefits."

According to the report, the most important key to closing the gap between business customer knowledge and residential customer knowledge of clean energy benefits is education, specifically providing information on costs and cost savings.

In addition, with the plethora of communication technologies available today, electrical contractors and others who are seeking to make deeper inroads into the residential clean energy market can reach these customers in a wide variety of ways.

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New Analytics From GE Help Utilities Improve Grid Operations
New Analytics From GE Help Utilities Improve Grid Operations tjohnson Fri, 06/21/2019 - 10:12

New Analytics From GE Help Utilities Improve Grid Operations

Technological innovation can be a blessing and a curse. For example, the increased penetration of renewable energy has created new challenges for grid operators. At the same time, big data can provide insight to help address some of those challenges.

Along those lines, tech powerhouse General Electric (GE) recently announced a new suite of grid analytics designed to help utilities improve their operations.

The portfolio relies on a unique combination of domain expertise with artificial intelligence and machine learning. It uses data from across transmission and distribution networks to help achieve goals for operational efficiency.

The analytics address three important areas of operation. Storm readiness analytics are intended to accurately forecast storm impact and prepare response crews and equipment ahead of impending weather. It utilizes high-resolution weather forecasts, outage history, crew response and geographic information system (GIS) data as the basis of its forecasts.

Network connectivity analytics correct and maintain network data integrity. GE’s Network Connectivity algorithms use GIS and other operational system data to detect, recommend and correct pervasive errors that often result from manual input of information.

Effective inertia analytics give enhanced visibility into transmission system operations to address issues of “system inertia” resulting from the influx of renewable energy generation. GE’s Effective Inertia analytics use machine learning to facilitate the measurement and forecasting of system inertia to enable a more stable grid.

Noting that the energy industry today only leverages “a small fraction of its operational data,” acting CEO for GE Digital and chief digital officer for GE Power, Steven Martin, said the new grid analytics will enable utilities to harness more of their data and adjust their operations “in ways previously unimagined.”

The new grid analytics are connected via GE’s common Digital Energy data fabric allowing data to be unified on a secure, scalable and user-friendly platform.

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Mass. Contractors Address Opioid Crisis Head-On
Mass. Contractors Address Opioid Crisis Head-On tjohnson Fri, 06/21/2019 - 09:58

Mass. Contractors Address Opioid Crisis Head-On

The Massachusetts Associated General Contractors (AGC) has a strong commitment to reducing opioid abuse. Mike O'Brien, Massachusetts AGC's chairman of the board and vice president of Gilbane Building Co. wrote in a message on the association’s website, "An area of urgent concern is the growing opioid addiction facing our industry. Like you, I'm deeply concerned by the grip opioids have on many construction workers in our state."

Recently, after becoming aware of some other alarming statistics, the group has made an even more concerted effort to address the problem.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Massachusetts ranks in the top 10 states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths involving opioids. Of such deaths, 1,913 occurred in 2017, a rate of 28.2 deaths per 100,000 persons—almost twice as high as the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Of even more concern to the Massachusetts AGC is the fact that construction workers represented 25 percent of all fatal opioid overdoses among the state's workers from 2011 to 2015, according to the state's Department of Public Health. And, construction workers are six times more likely to fatally overdose on opioids than other workers.

In response to the problem, the Massachusetts AGC, in cooperation with a number of construction companies and labor unions in the state, stopped work for a stand-down day on June 5. The stand-down involved work stoppages at approximately 50 work sites across the state, so speakers could provide information on opioids to the workers and site management.

"It was clear we had to do something," said Robert Petrucelli, CEO of the Massachusetts AGC. "No one talks about this, but it permeates our industry."

The Massachusetts AGC is also working with Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction to develop an opioid safety program that it will encourage construction employers in the state to adopt. The program provides information for employers on how to address opioid use among their workforce, such as recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug addiction, how to respond to an overdose, and providing information on local addiction treatment resources.

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Checking up on the 2019 Construction Outlook
Checking up on the 2019 Construction Outlook tjohnson Fri, 06/21/2019 - 09:44

Checking up on the 2019 Construction Outlook

We are halfway through 2019. It has been a period of tariff talks, crippling floods and an elusive infrastructure bill. Have these events thrown the 2019 construction forecast off its axis? The short answer is no.

Dodge Data & Analytics presented a spring update of its 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook on June 12 in Chicago. Dodge’s chief economist and vice president, Robert Murray, shared the latest 2018 performance data and 2019 construction activity to date to paint a picture of an upward construction cycle leveling off.

“The expansion is continuing with some deceleration marked by sluggish first-quarter performance, particularly in public works,” he said.

While flat growth remains the forecast for 2019, starts fell 8 percent during the first five months. Murray isn’t alarmed.

“As an economist, I don’t look at starts-to-date as something to be overly concerned,” he said. “Let’s see how the second half of the year goes. Right now, total construction is up 1 percent.”

Public works most acutely felt the slower activity in first quarter 2019. Murray expects it to bounce back but revised growth predictions down to 2 percent from 4 percent.

The latest news in single-family housing is a market stuck. Though its 2018 gains of 5 percent (revised from 3 percent) is good news, revisions for 2019 represent a retreat to –3 percent.

“The mortgage rate is back below 4 percent, which you think would be a motivator. Affordability is an issue. Millennials see prices modifying but still too expensive to pull that homebuying trigger,” Murray said.

Meanwhile, multifamily beat forecasts with an 11 percent gain in 2018. Lending for this sector, however, is pulling back in 2019.

While manufacturing plants and electric utilities remain volatile, manufacturing no longer drags down total construction activity. Activity was up 23 percent in 2018, a revision from 18 percent reported in January 2019.

“Manufacturing may help buoy 2019,” Murray said.

 Even electrical utilities/gas plants started to show unexpected gains (LNG terminals are providing a lift) at the end of last year. This year could show a 39 percent gain from –25 percent in 2018.

The Dodge Momentum Index (DMI), gauging construction in the planning phase, may be “losing some steam” though not much, Murray said.

“The DMI did show a decline in third quarter 2017 but renewed growth through July 2018,” he said. “It has since settled back through May 2019. Right now, commercial planning is down 20 percent since July 2018. Institutional is down 7 percent since April 2018. This is an indicator of ‘settling back’ leading to a downturn at some point. The DMI likely peaked in July 2018.” Lending for commercial and industrial has eased, a positive development.

The current state of the economy

Murray views the economy as tailwinds and headwinds. Lifting the economy’s sails, he cited overall gross domestic product landing at 2.9 percent for 2018 and rising to 3.1 percent for first quarter 2019. The Federal Reserve is holding long-term interest rates low (though, in June, it suggested it was considering cutting rates). State and local bond measures continue to support school construction (community colleges up 71 percent in 2018 and high schools up 24 percent between 2016–2018). Federal highway funding saw a 2 percent increase. Tariffs on steel and aluminum were removed between the United States, Canada and Mexico. New tariffs levied against Mexico over migrant control were averted. Finally, market fundamentals for commercial and multifamily housing strengthened in 2018. Unemployment stands at 3.6 percent.

Economic headwinds include little lift left in the federal tax cut. Material prices are rising, though fluctuating (e.g., copper wire cost fell 3 percent). Trade tensions with China remain. The federal deficit has reached $1 trillion.

Murray looked beyond 2019, too.

“It does seem we have reached our peak in this recovery,” he said. “Our take on a decline in construction activity [recessionary] is maybe as much as 15 percent. That, however, is nowhere near what happened during the Great Recession. Maybe we don’t even see a decline as much as steady stability. I expect a moderate pullback through 2021 based on the pattern of starts but see increases in 2022–2023. Assuming a recession comes, I don’t expect it to be bad, except for multifamily housing. The guess for an anticipated recession is between 2020–2021.”

In summary, Murray said, “I don’t know if the forecast has changed that much. I am seeing a flattening of activity. Starts range between –3 to +2. Single-family has seen some gain. Commercial is essentially flat. Institutional is re-establishing. Public sector work could still show gains. I expect manufacturing will as well.”    

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Maximizing Solar by Building More and Generating Less
Maximizing Solar by Building More and Generating Less tjohnson Fri, 06/14/2019 - 11:43

Maximizing Solar by Building More and Generating Less

Renewables have faced many challenges in their quest to penetrate mainstream energy markets. High costs and the whims of nature have always been the foremost among them. As renewable energy grows, add oversupply to the list.

The surge of renewable power in recent decades has created the added problem of too much electricity from wind and solar coming onto the grid. Experts and investors have frowned on building too much capacity that creates a need to cut back or curtail renewable energy production when there is excess generation.

A new study published in the journal Solar Energy turns this logic on its head. “Overbuilding and curtailment: the cost-effective enablers of firm PV generation” was published in March by researchers at Clean Power Research, the University at Albany and the Pace University Energy and Climate Center. They argue that, when done properly, curtailment and oversizing of generating capacity can help solar power reach its maximum potential.

Relying on mathematical models and incorporating data generated from a recent study of a utility-scale photovoltaic plant in Minnesota, the researchers conclude that over-building solar plants combined with what they describe as “proactive curtailment” will allow solar to perform like conventional power generating sources and at a competitive price.

The study also contradicts the conventional wisdom that solar can be effective only with a heavy investment in storage technology to bank power for use when the sun goes down. Instead, the researchers argue that overbuilding solar generation across a geographically dispersed area and managing it with proactive curtailment practices is a more cost-effective approach. Some storage will still be needed in the overall mix, along with a blending of wind power and natural gas, effective load balancing practices, and an improved grid.

The researchers also introduce the concept of “firm power,” which they define as power that can be dispatched to meet demand at any time with 100 percent reliability. Conventional fuel sources would be considered firm power, but solar power would not because it relies on the sun. However, the researchers argue that, with the balancing of oversupply and curtailment, solar can generate firm power at a competitive price.

While the study focused on data from the state of Minnesota, other states may be demonstrating the same results. Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that California had reached two seemingly contradictory milestones at about the same time. The California ISO (CAISO) set an all-time instantaneous solar generation peak of 11,363 megawatts (MW) on June 1. CAISO also reported that, on May 27, solar plant operators shut off a record total of about 4,700 MW of capacity at the same time, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of the entire solar capacity installed on the California grid.

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Nevada Allows Alternative Rate-Making Plans
Nevada Allows Alternative Rate-Making Plans tjohnson Fri, 06/14/2019 - 09:32

Nevada Allows Alternative Rate-Making Plans

Legislatures in two states—Hawaii, and now Nevada—have determined, if the states impose mandates for utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources, the states should also allow utilities to implement alternative methods for setting rates.

Last month, Nevada enacted Senate Bill 300 by State Sen. Chris Brooks. Brooks also sponsored the recently enacted bill, which requires Nevada to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Senate Bill 300, signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak, allows utilities to file applications for the establishment of an alternative rate-making plan and requires the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to adopt regulations governing the filing of such applications.

While the new law doesn’t proscribe specific mechanisms that utilities must adopt when developing an alternative rate-making plan, it does state that a plan could include performance-based rates, formula rates, multi-year rate plans, subscription pricing, an earnings-sharing mechanism (sharing earnings with customers), a decoupling mechanism (disassociating an utility’s financial performance from the sales of electricity) or any other rate-making mechanism authorized by the Commission in subsequent regulations.

Hawaii became the first state to allow for alternative rate-making plans, according to the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, after lawmakers there last year established a 100 percent “renewable portfolio standard by 2045.”

Last month, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission identified a portfolio of specific performance-based regulation mechanisms. The new framework is intended to save customers money, while rewarding Hawaii’s public utility companies for meeting specific outcomes in renewable energy adoption and improved customer service, according to the Commission's summary.

The framework includes multi-year rate plans, earnings-sharing mechanisms, decoupling mechanisms, as well as, performance incentives, shared-savings mechanisms, and scorecards and reported metrics.

Other states, including Minnesota, are also considering performance-based ratemaking, according to Utility Dive.

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Make Do and Mend
Make Do and Mend tjohnson Thu, 06/13/2019 - 09:18

Make Do and Mend

“Make Do and mend” is the title of a British booklet published during World War II; it encouraged people to repair their clothing so the military could use the country’s fabric for uniforms. Making such an effort may sound strange during this time of plenty, but renewing and recycling is a virtue today.

In Electrical Contractor’s Renovation and Retrofit issue, we bring you several examples of how to get ahead without starting from scratch. The picture of the Colossi of Memnon above, taken by Julie when she lived in Egypt, is a solid reminder that this pursuit is not new. In “Teaching an Old Building New Tricks,” Jeff Gavin writes about installing smart technology in retrofits, a complicated endeavor especially in historic structures such as Westminster Abbey.

In "Protecting Treasures," Claire Swedberg explains how electrical contractors can get involved with behind-the-scenes necessities to preserve art, artifacts and rare books. Claire also covers the renovation of the Times Theatre in Seaside, Ore. Unused for decades, Inland Electric has helped give it a new life as an Art Deco-style theater and brewery-restaurant. Read "The Show Goes On" here.

Katie Keuhner-Hebert, whose name you know from the Industry Watch section, brings you her first feature for us on how to safely employ reconditioned electrical equipment rather than buying new. Reasons for doing so range from saving money to an inability to find a modern equivalent part. Read “Renew and Reuse” here.

Chuck Ross investigates whether we still need 200-ampere residential service with today’s energy-efficient equipment and appliances in “This Just In: Energy-efficiency standards are working.”

You get a double dose of Fred Sargent and Andrew McCoy this month. In the first of a three-part Your Business series on moving from foreman to project manager, Fred and Andrew address hurdles you might face making the switch. Read “Four Obvious Hurdles” here. And their Service/Maintenance column is about three apprentices from the Flint/Saginaw Electrical JATC who have created a realistic plan for their own electrical contracting business.

In the Integrated Systems section, Claire Swedberg writes about emergency alert systems used in schools for the deaf and hard of hearing. Strobes may not be enough anymore, so read “Safety Without Sound.” Also in that section, Deborah O’Mara explains some of the new regulations, standards and laws pertaining to the critical infrastructure landscape. Read “Change of Plans” here.

We love history. Looking back at all of the things humanity has accomplished, we sometimes find ourselves in awe at our own potential. Some of the most powerful examples of our capability to create are all around us and remain standing today because people with valuable skills like you not only put it there but helped ensure it stayed there.

In this light, renovation and retrofit work is more than a practicality. It’s preservation.

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Every Three Years: Significant Changes in the 2020 NEC
Every Three Years: Significant Changes in the 2020 NEC tjohnson Thu, 06/13/2019 - 09:05

Every Three Years: Significant Changes in the 2020 NEC

Every three years, the National Electrical Code (NEC) is revised and often expanded. As the 2020 NEC development cycle comes to a close, the process’ final stages unfold. This article is the first in a series that examines some of the significant revisions and new requirements in the 2020 NEC. Note that the 2020 NEC development process is still open and is not final until the completion of the NFPA Technical Session on June 20, 2019, and the subsequent issuance by the NFPA Standards Council in August 2019.

The NFPA received 3,730 public inputs recommending Code change, resulting in 1,400 first revisions (FR). The NFPA also received 1,930 public comments, producing 634 second revisions. Seventy-three correlating FRs and four new articles emerged in the 2020 NEC.

Many of the changes and new rules address new technologies, such as expanded use of energy storage systems and equipment, microgrid installations, and large-scale photovoltaic system installations. The following is a summary of the new articles in the 2020 NEC.

Article 242—Overvoltage Protection

Articles 280 and 285 from the 2017 NEC have been combined into Article 242, “Overvoltage Protection.” The article has three parts: “General,” “Surge Protective Devices (SPDs) 1000 Volts or Less,” and “Surge Arresters Over 1000 Volts.” Technical responsibility for Article 242 and its associated definitions in Article 100 has been shifted from Code-Making Panel (CMP) 5 to CMP 10.

Article 311—Medium Voltage Conductors and Cables

Article 328 from the 2017 NEC was deleted, and its contents was relocated to a new Article 311, “Medium Voltage Conductors and Cables.” This article also incorporates requirements for medium voltage cables and conductors rated over 2,000 volts, which were formerly located in Article 310. This new article covers the use, installation, construction specifications, and ampacities for Type MV medium voltage conductors and cable.

Article 337—Type P Cable

A new Article 337, “Type P Cable,” has been added to NEC Chapter 3. This article addresses the use and installation of Type P cable (marine shipboard cable). Type P cable has been commonly used in land-based oil and gas rigs for over four decades, but the NEC has never addressed its permitted use. Type P cable is limited to industrial installations and hazardous locations.

Article 800—General Requirements for Communications Systems and Article 805—Communications Circuits

Article 800 has been revised to combine all of the common general requirements from all of the chapter eight communications articles into a single article. The remaining specific rules in former Article 800 have been included in a new Article 805, “Communications Circuits.” This revision addresses usability of the NEC rules for all communications systems and removes a significant amount of redundancy. The revisions resulted from work of a usability task group specifically assigned by the NEC Correlating Committee.

Section 90.2(A)(5) and (6)

Section 90.2(A) provides information about what the NEC covers. Two new list items (5) and (6) have been added to Section 90.2(A). List item (5) addresses installations providing shore power to watercraft in marinas and boatyards including monitoring leakage current. A new (6) in 90.2(A) to addresses installations used to export power from electric vehicles to premises wiring.

Bidirectional flow of power is typically accomplished using utility interactive inverters. Revisions in Article 625 resulted in the need to provide clarification in the NEC’s overall scope as it applies to processes and equipment that is used to export power from electric vehicles to the premises wiring. Where an electric vehicle supplies power to wiring systems, it is acting like a generator. The NEC is clear that generators connected to premises wiring must meet all applicable requirements.

Article 100—Scope

NEC Article 100 covers definitions of terms that appear in more than two articles.

Article 100’s scope has been revised to indicate definitions are also provided in the .2 section of some articles. The scope’s second paragraph has been expanded to include a new Part III that includes definitions specifically applicable to Hazardous (Classified) Locations. Moving all of the definitions from the chapter five hazardous locations articles brings chapter five into compliance with the NEC Style Manual and enhances usability. Both changes revise the scope to align with the representation contained in Article 100. CMP 14 retains technical responsibility of the defined words and terms contained in new Part III of Article 100.

My next column will continue this series on the 2020 NEC changes.

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Energy as Green as the Mountains: Vermont Aims to Go Carbon-Free
Energy as Green as the Mountains: Vermont Aims to Go Carbon-Free tjohnson Thu, 06/13/2019 - 09:05

Energy as Green as the Mountains: Vermont Aims to Go Carbon-Free

As movement on federal greenhouse gas initiatives has basically flatlined during the Trump administration, more states have stepped up to establish targets for reduced use of fossil fuels in their electricity generation portfolios. Several states—notably, Hawaii, California and New Mexico—have gotten the lion’s share of attention for such efforts with fast-tracked schedules to eliminate fossil fuels in the next 25 years. However, Vermont’s largest utility recently announced a plan that could make the Green Mountain State the first in the nation to go carbon-free, or nearly so, as early as 2025.

Hawaii was the first to set a goal of 100 percent renewables (with a 2045 target date) in legislation passed in 2015. Last September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation committing the state to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. And in March, New Mexico passed legislation committing to the same goal.

Vermont, in contrast, seems to have come somewhat late to this effort legislatively. It only established its own renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 2015. That legislation called for 55 percent of generation to come from renewables by 2017 and 75 percent by 2032. Ambitious as these targets are, however, individual utilities in the state are already outperforming the mandates.

In fact, by the time Vermont legislators had settled on the state’s RPS, the Burlington Electric Department—the state’s second largest utility, with approximately 42,000 customers —had already hit its own 100 percent renewables goal. Then, just this April, Mary Powell, CEO of the state’s largest utility, Green Mountain Power (GMP), committed her company to 100 percent carbon-free generation by 2025 and 100 percent renewable generation by 2030. GMP’s 265,000 customers represent approximately 75 percent of the state’s total. And carbon-free sources now represent about 73 percent of the current portfolio of the Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC), which serves approximately 32,000 members.

Like every state, Vermont has unique advantages and disadvantages in its effort to reduce and eventually eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels for electricity generation. Its biggest advantage is its own hydropower resources and its transmission links to Canada’s even more significant hydropower supplies. So, in 2018, hydropower was anticipated to support 60 percent of GMP’s power sales and 36 percent of Burlington Electric’s sales. Additionally, in 2018, nuclear made up about 27 percent of GMP’s power supply, which, when combined with hydro and other renewable sources, enables the company to claim its current supply is 90 percent carbon-free.

Another big advantage for Vermont utilities is the state’s vast biomass resources—specifically, trees. Burlington meets its 100 percent renewables goal thanks to its 50-megawatt (MW) McNeil Generating Station, which supplies 36 percent of the utility’s electricity. Wood chips used as fuel for the plant are largely sourced within 60 miles of the plant as a byproduct of an active timber industry.

However, categorizing biomass as renewable is controversial for many environmentalists, some of whom also point to considerable carbon emissions in such plants’ operation. Proponents, however, contend that, at least in the McNeil station case, biomass creates a carbon-neutral virtuous circle of sorts, with carbon emissions taken up by the next generation of trees planted to replace those that have been harvested.

In terms of disadvantages, Vermont faces a bit of a transmission bottleneck, especially in the north of the state, where wind resources are high and property costs are low. VEC is the primary utility in the area known as the Northeast Kingdom, and its transmission system has already been strained with the addition of the 63 MW Kingdom Community wind farm. This facility periodically curtails operations because the transmission infrastructure required to ship that power out of the region is simply too small for the job. Both wind and solar projects have been rejected in the last several years as a result.

In part to address such issues with new energy supplies, Vermont utilities, especially GMP, have jumped into battery-based energy storage in a big way. GMP is now ranked eighth in the nation in terms of total installed battery capacity, according to the Smart Electric Power Alliance. In addition to pairing several recent solar projects with on-site batteries, GMP also has a residential storage incentive program.

Customers participating in the plan get credits against their bills based on the storage capacity they make available to the utility during peak demand periods, when emissions-heavy, oil-burning peaking plants would otherwise have to be fired up. In addition to environmental benefits, this approach also has a financial upside. The utility says that being able to call on customer-sited storage during peak periods in July 2018 saved customers $500,000 over what operating the peaking plants would have cost.

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Energy as Green as the Mountains: Vermont Aims to Go Carbon-Free
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