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Swinerton Renewable Energy:
Powerhouse Solar Power Project Provider Established in 2008, the Swinerton Renewable Energy division of Swinerton has developed into an industry standard-bearer, delivering more than 4GW of projects. Written by Kevin Doyle Produced by Stephen Marino
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hile many construction firms saw disaster at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, opting to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm – or worse during those bleak times – industry stalwart Swinerton took a leap of faith. With great confidence in the ability of its personnel to learn, adapt and perform at a peak level, the company established its Swinerton Renewable Energy division to fill a void as traditional construction sectors contracted. “We saw a lot of our traditional industries struggling through the financial crisis so we were looking for opportunities to find new marketplaces and grow opportunities for our employees. We looked at some solar opportunities, partially driven by the California Solar Initiative (rebate program established in 2006) and we saw an opportunity to go back to some of our traditional clients,” explains SRE President George Hershman. Developers brought Swinerton on board for commercial projects such as hospitals, community colleges and schools as well as Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) solar projects. “In 2010 as we started seeing the growth of utility scale projects, we really moved into that market because we had significant quantity capacity,
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 4 a lot of equity and working capital, so doing a larger project made a lot more sense for us. So we pretty much grew through 2010 and, up until 2016, we almost doubled year over year as we started to see the market grow,” Hershman says. SRE is imbued with the DNA and pioneering spirit of its parent company, founded in 1888 during The Gold Rush. It is 100 percent employee owned and operated; has delivered 4GW of renewable energy projects; and employs approximately 600 across its EPS and SOLV groups. Headquartered in San Diego, SRE also has locations in San Francisco, Bend, OR and Raleigh, NC. SOLV, its standalone solar operations and maintenance group, formed in 2014. “I’m happy to say I’m employee No. 1 of the organization. I started the group with essentially myself and had been with Swinerton for almost 15 years when we started this,” Hershman says. “I moved over from our more traditional operations and I believe – and, I think other folks would say, it’s the strongest team in the industry. I’ve really focused on industry and policy and the execution of projects and I have a great leadership team that runs our day to day operations,” he adds. SRE works exclusively with contractorpartners Blymyer Engineering and Construction Innovations.
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“They are two partners we’ve had since the very beginning and we’ve done 100 percent of our work together. Those are the three legs of the stool that keep this organization growing and moving forward,” Hershman says.
Noteworthy Projects Kayenta II: Located within the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona, Kayenta II is the first tribally built, owned and operated solar facility in the U.S. Owned by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and developed with Arizona utility, Salt River Project (SRP), the Kayenta II project serves as a platform for future ventures as NTUA and SRP work
together toward the development of up to 200 megawatts of renewable energy projects by within the Navajo Nation by 2023. Solar energy projects, like Kayenta II, support the Nation’s goal of charting their own energy future and improving the health and welfare of the residents of the Navajo Nation. Sweetwater: Sweetwater is a 97.9-megawatt solar facility in Green River, Wyoming. Completed in early 2019, the project is Wyoming’s first utility solar project and the largest in the state. Located on approximately 703 acres, 638 of which are federal land, Sweetwater is expected to generate enough clean energy to
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power 12,000 homes per year. After experiencing a 6-week start delay, the project team worked 7 days a week, while battling severe weather and difficult ground conditions, to deliver the completed project on time. Three Peaks Solar: Three Peaks Solar is an 80 MW solar facility and 138kV substation that sits on 739 acres in Cedar City, Utah. The facility was Swinerton Renewable Energy’s first 1500-volt system and one of the first projects in the U.S. to feature SMA’s 2500 EV inverters. The array type is a ground-mount, single-axis tracker utilizing NEXTracker’ s NX Horizon tracking system. Swinerton worked closely with NEXTracker to develop
and customize a unique module rail, which significantly reduced the installation time while and allowed for a high-quality finished product. Three Peaks was also the first project to utilize SRE’s new production and quality tracking app, Sunscreen.
Safety Initiatives The company employs a large staff of safety professionals who provide training and constantly monitor and identify challenges and changing conditions on job sites. SRE’s workers are outfitted with top safety gear. Flex and stretch programs are part of the daily routine and workers are
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“If … we have to work seven days a week in Wyoming to finish a project in record time in bad weather on BLM land, if that’s the requirement, then that’s what our employee-owners believe in.” - President George Hershman
empowered to stop work and report a potential problem if something seems amiss. Root cause analysis is performed and the company will change operating procedures as needed. With hundreds of people working across thousands of acres at any given time, the company must remain vigilant. “It’s a constant process. [The message] has to be ingrained in your culture and
in your teams and they have to hear the same thing over and over and over again,” Hershman says. “This is a difficult business. It gets very hot and it gets very cold and we build during all those various periods of time. Safety can never stop; it’s a constant training and reinforcement process and we’re establishing new procedures almost daily to address issues we may not have seen before. Bottom line is
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80MWac | Sweetwater, Wyoming
200MWac | Los Banos, CA
32MWac | Kayenta, AZ
OF PROJECTS & COUNTING
200MWac | Boulder City, NV
“ We ’ r e p r o u d o f t h e c o n t i n u o u s s u p p o r t a n d t r u s t f r o m S w i n e r t o n i n selecting our technology for landmark projects across the US, “ - H a n k Wa n g , P r e s i d e n t o f S u n g r o w A m e r i c a s
| s u n g r o w p o w e r. c o m |
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Nevada: Techren II Solar Power Plant SUNGROW INVERTERS | SG2500U-MV
Techren II solar power plant is located in El Dorado Valley, Boulder City, Nevada, home to many various utility-scale power plants. The project is developed by Clenera, which aims at adopting advanced new solar technology and achieving large power capacity of 250 MWp. It is expected to supply 572 GWh of reliable solar power every year, which is equivalent to the electrical usage of more than 48,000 Nevada households, offsetting nearly 323,000 tons of CO 2 annually. Sungrow, as a global leading inverter solution supplier for renewables, provides the advanced central inverter solution SG2500U-MV for this project. It is well integrated with bifacial modules (from Canadian Solar / LONGi), and solar trackers (from NEXTracker). In partnership with leading EPC Swinerton Renewable Energy, Techren II was successfully commissioned in Aug, 2019 and is running smoothly ever since. Most of the utility-scale solar projects are moving forward to apply 1500Vdc technologies. With shifting to 1500V, a PV plant needs less cables, DC combiner boxes, and labor cost compared with the project with 1000V technologies. The turnkey station SG2500U-MV is highly integrated with 1500Vdc inverter, communication units, and pad-mount transformer. It is standard containerized design, which means easy transportation and low installation cost of inverters.
and meets the long-term operation requirements of the power plant and ensure a high yield. Besides, it is integrated with auxiliary power supply for solar tracker, which can significantly ensure less power supply cables and reduce installation labor cost. Techren II project is located in an arid high plateau, which often experiences high temperature in summer exceeding 40℃ (104 F) With smart forced air-cooling technology, SG2500U-MV can maintain excellent efficiency and full power operation under the conditions of high temperature (2500kW@50℃, 2750kW@45℃) and it can run stably from -30 °C (-22 °F) to 60°C (140 °F). Due to the high protection design, Sungrow SG2500U-MV performs well in extreme environments. Sungrow is one of the few companies which introduced its 1500Vdc inverter solutions as early as 2015, and has more than 8GW of 1500V inverters deployed globally as of June 2019. Equipped with robust delivery capability for each project, regarding to R&D, production & assembly, shipment and implementation, Sungrow also has extensive cooperation experience with project partners to ensure a successful and timely COD.
According to the operational data, the annual equivalent power generation hours of Techren II PV plant is more than 2500 hours. The project can generate more solar energy and demand stricter requirements regarding to high load capacity and long-time The project can generate more solar energy and demand stricter requirements regarding to high load capacity and long-time stability SG2500U-MV presents excellent performance 200Wac | Boulder City, NV
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 10 we need to get people home to their families,” says.
Operations The company thrives on repeat business and strives to make the customer experience as enjoyable as it can possibly be. “Part of the reason we’ve been successful and continue to grow is because 80-90 percent of our business is repeat business. If we built for you once, we’re going to build for you again because the experiences have typically pretty good,” Hershman notes. The company has either built or manages facilities in 26 states. Its core market has been California, Nevada, Arizona and the West. Texas is an emerging leader and the Midwest is beginning to open up. “Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota – the most exciting news for us is that we are starting in the Midwest,” Hershman notes. “The
market is starting to change in that it is a much more national focus and we will go anywhere our clients want us to go. We’ve built from Washington to Central Florida, from down in Calexico up to Boston, Maine and Connecticut. We’ve kind of dotted all four corners of the U.S. and see that as our marketplace.” When SRE goes, it does so with a remarkably small footprint. Typically a small group – superintendents, foremen and management personnel – will move to a site and hire every other person on the job from the local talent pool. “On any given day we have 1,000 to 2,000 temporary employees that we work with in different regions to man our projects. Essentially they work directly for us. We use employment services because of the administration of it, but they work directly under our people across the country. Our intent is to move a relatively small footprint into any region where we’re building a project and then hire 80-90 percent of the people working on it,” Hershman
“Part of the reason we’ve been successful and continue to grow is because 80-90 percent of our business is repeat business. If we built for you once, we’re going to build for you again because the experiences have typically pretty good. ” - President George Hershman www.swinertonrenewable.com
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 11 explains. Blymyer Engineering performs all the electrical and construction engineering while, Hershman says, Construction Engineering executes “all balance of system fabrication and all of the AC and DC manufacturing. All component parts are fabricated closely with our team’s input and they deliver that side of the product to us. So we’ve really optimized the installation process.”
Power in Collaboration
Since it self-performs up to 90 percent of work on a given job, local subs are used only as needed. “We use local subs only for the small scopes of work we don’t do ourselves. We have a history of treating our subcontractors very fairly, of paying our bills on time, and of doing things that will help them become successful as well,” Hershman notes. The company’s extensive global supply chain network features many top tier vendors. “We’re recognized as a good
counterpart and fair business partner with those vendors, so we get a lot of preferential treatment,” Hershman says. “We have a world-class procurement group securing materials from all over to make sure we have the product we need when we need it. We’re not always shopping the latest and greatest product out there; we limit our supply chain to a number of products we know we can deliver successfully
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 12 and at the lowest cost.” On those occasions when the company brings on new vendors or products, they undergo a rigorous vetting process and start small to determine whether they can meet SRE’s needs. “NEXTracker was probably the best example of that. When they first came online we did a 500Kw project with them on their beta product. We provided a lot of feedback, they listened and continued to develop that product and our installation process and how we worked, and now we know with certainty that we can deliver gigawatts of power with their product,” Hershman says. Every decision the company makes is done so with the goal of delivering a world-class project on schedule. “If that means we have to work seven days a week in Wyoming to finish a project in record time in bad weather on BLM land, if that’s the requirement, then that’s what our employee-owners believe in – doing whatever it takes to make this happen, on time and on budget,” Hershman stresses.
Driven To Improve While the company doesn’t utilize any formal continuous improvement methodologies, its own systems work quite nicely. SRE self-analyzes via
feedback loops. “That works even with our operations and maintenance teams and getting information back to our Engineering teams to make sure that we are continuously improving on the design process of the plan,” Hershman says. The company’s in-house Project Management app-based platform Sunscreen tracks every project in real time. “Foremen in the field with iPads are able to track their performances and it translates into a web-based portal that provides analysis on productivity, equipment performance, down to the
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 13 the board. Because the organization is one group tied together, we can do a pretty efficient information loop and we can effect change quickly,” Hershman says. If a flawed process is discovered during the course of a project, it is remedied immediately. Likewise, if new generation products are determined to have advantages, they are implemented as quickly as possible. “And that’s okay because our teams can adapt to that,” Hershman says.
Forward Looking SRE continues to set the industry bar with its ceaseless focus on improvement. crew level performance on a given day. So we have a huge amount of data in the collection process and can analyze our production metrics in real time,” Hershman notes. The company’s technology group in Bend, OR handles all of its data management with the goal of supporting better and faster installation methods. “We have a lot of data across the spectrum. What is the total cost of ownership and what is the total cost of installation? We may have a lower CapEx cost on a certain component but its entire installation cost may be higher. We do a lot of analysis across
“I love the innovation culture that we have as a team. We will continue to find better ways of doing things. We’re committed to challenges in the industry to make projects successful that others have walked away from,” says Hershman, an industry veteran of 35 years. He began a term as Chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association®, the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, in January of 2020. With its robust workforce, more equipment than other EPCs, the ability to self-perform most of its work, and a growing pool of projects around the world, expect SRE to continue in its
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role as an industry leader for decades to come. “I can’t overemphasize the cultural aspect of Swinerton. Because we’re 100 percent employee-owned, every single person has a vested interest in the success of every project. It is real and they take it personally, so it’s just a pleasure for me to represent an organization like this. I’m at a point where I’m more cheerleader than manager and I love the fact that we are hiring people today that will close out their 30-year career at the same company,” Hershman concludes.
Company Name: Swinerton Renewable Energy Country: United States Industry: Construction Est: 2008 Premier Services: Builds and manages utility, commercial, energy storage and high voltage substation solar installations. President: George Hershman Websites: www.swinerton.com, www.swinertonrenewable.com
Swinerton Renewable Energy | 15 George Hershmanâ€™s Biography George W. Hershman is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Swinerton Renewable Energy (SRE), a division of Swinerton Inc. Originally founded in 1888, Swinerton Builders is one of the largest general contractors in the Country. Mr. Hershman began his tenure at Swinerton in 1997 as a Project Manager, working on a diverse set of projects ranging from a Los Angeles Airport runway, tunnel expansion to a $150-million renovation of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 2006, he was promoted to San Diego Division Manager of Swinerton Management & Consulting. In this capacity, he oversaw Construction Management assignments for municipal and education clients throughout the San Diego region. In response to the growing demand for renewable energy, Mr. Hershman took on the task of building Swinertonâ€™s presence in the Renewable Energy Sector in 2008. Since starting the group, he and his team built SRE into one of the largest Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) firms in the Country. In 2014, SRE formed a stand-alone plant management group called SOLV to enhance plant operations through specialized analytics and customized services. Both the EPC and SOLV teams are consistently ranked in the top five
(5) among industry leaders in annual solar company rankings. SRE has performed over 4GW of EPC work and SOLV group manages over 4.5GW of solar and wind assets. This includes projects throughout the United States and Canada. With over 30 years of construction experience, Mr. Hershman has become a recognized expert and industry leader in the engineering, construction and management of solar power plants. Mr. Hershman is an elected Executive Committee member and sits on the Board of Directors of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
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