POWER Engineers, A Prominent Facility, T&D and Generation Engineer, Settles Into Atlanta
This Spud’s For You: An Idaho-based Consulting Engineering Company Puts Down Tubers in Peachtree Country
by Marshall Ralph
As in the case of nearly everything with any significance, it was an accident. POWER Engineers is a 500-person design company — notable for transmission lines in the western U.S. and geothermal power plants in the Philippines and Latin America — that has just opened a fresh regional office in Atlanta after five years of fast-paced Norcross site experience for AT&T and Lucent. POWER is from Idaho. That’s right, Idaho. If they’d planned it this way, they wouldn’t have planned it this way.
As Usual, One Thing Led to Another
POWER Engineers’ half-decade-old involvement with the Lucent fiber optic facility in Norcross dates back to 1988. In that year, a small-but-growing-fast consulting engineering company in faraway Idaho offered a management job to a veteran Southeast U.S.A. glass-facility engineer named Frank Halverson, an Idaho boy who’d been everywhere, but was ready to come home. So Halverson came home. Then, he complicated things significantly by immediately involving himself and his new co-workers in fiber optic manufacturing projects 2,000 miles away, back where he’d just come from. Nobody planned it that way, but in a few years, POWER found that it had turned itself into — among other things — one of the US’s leading multidisciplinary engineering specialists for fiber optic manufacturing plants. Frank Halverson is still mostly at home in Idaho, but POWER Engineers now has a deeply rooted presence in Atlanta and a solid resume of sophisticated facility design work for the former AT&T and now Lucent fiber optic manufacturing plant in Norcross. Working with Lucent’s process engineering and facility planners, POWER has provided full-discipline design engineering and construction documents for critical facility expansion and upgrade projects, including:
- Structural designs for several ultra-tall draw tower projects housing optical fiber manufacturing processes
- Clean room design and manufacturing tool hook-up
- Electrical, mechanical, structural and controls engineering for numerous fiber optic manufacturing and cabling processes
- Utility system studies and facility planning support
POWER’s Lucent Norcross projects have been showcase applications for POWER’s approach to complex multi-disciplinary projects, involving long-term assignment of POWER people to small, fast-acting teams that stay with the project from conception to finish. POWER’s approach also involves extensive use of database-driven CAD systems that support automated interference checking and can readily generate drawings, material takeoffs, and 3D displays of the systems being designed. Before 1998, POWER did the majority of Lucent design and documentation work from its Boise and Hailey offices, using site-based engineers for design liaison and interface with Lucent team members. But recently, POWER decided to found a full-service office in Atlanta, staffed with a resident core of engineers who call Atlanta home, and actively market for additional client relationships in the Southeast.
Specialty Areas for the New Office: Facility A/E, Power Generation & T&D
In 1998, POWER augmented its Lucent Technologies site office by opening a new regional office for full-service facility engineering on Oakbrook Parkway in Atlanta. The growing office is staffed with design management and project management talent with experience in running more than $1.5 billion in high-tech projects for Alcatel, Mallinckrodt Chemical, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, and Star-Kist/Heinz. According to POWER’s regional manager, Georgian Ray Hudgins, P.E., POWER’s Atlanta operation has plans for several years of steep growth in the office roster and development of client relationships in several market segments where POWER is prominent in other areas:
- Food process plants
- Fiber optic manufacturing, of course
- Gas turbine generation and cogeneration
- Semiconductor manufacturing
- Electronic assembly
- Utility systems: transmission lines, substations and SCADA
A recent and highly vocal addition to POWER’s Atlanta office strength is a veteran utility project manager and another Georgia native, Steve Copeland, P.E.. Copeland notes that he’ll be responsible for increasing POWER’s work base over all the market areas listed. He points out, however, that POWER’s strength in small-to-medium gas turbine unit installations is likely to be of particular value in the Southeast, where growth in distributed and on-site-generation — serving both utility and non-utility systems — is likely to be fast and steady.
Why the Heck Would a Large Engineering Consultant be Headquartered in Idaho?
POWER was founded in 1976 in Pocatello, Idaho, as a three-engineer specialist in electrical transmission and distribution. Soon after its founding, the office burned down and the founders, facing rebuilding in any case, decided to rebuild closer to the fishing. They rebuilt 150 miles away in the (then) 1,000-person town of Hailey, Idaho, on the Big Wood River 10 miles south of the Sun Valley resort. In addition to the outdoor opportunities, the Hailey location offered convenient access to the all-weather Sun Valley Airport and frequent commercial air connections with the outside world. The local airport and the commercial air connections provided useful to the fledgling utility engineering company over the next two decades, as POWER became one of the US’s most prominent transmission line and substation engineers. POWER’s work was particularly prominent in the field of system study and design for many REAs and electrical co-ops in the West, power distribution for large mining operations in Nevada and Idaho, and system planning and construction support for far-flung utility systems in Alaska, often in fortunate proximity to even more opulent fishing opportunities. POWER consolidated its T&D prominence considerably in 1996 by acquiring St. Louis-based Kuether & Associates, one of the leading utility engineering and T&D specialists in the U.S. heartland. By 1988, POWER’s prominence and background in utility and right-of-way work led to an early involvement with then-revolutionary fiber optic work, as POWER supported AT&T with engineering, environmental work and right of way work for installation of long-distance fiber optic lines across vast expanses of the West.
An Unlikely Prominence in an Exotic Field
POWER’s full-service industrial design business began abruptly in 1985, when POWER acquired the services of some veteran engineers who declined to move along when their former employer, a large design-build firm, dragged its engineering office from Boise to Cleveland. One of the 1985 acquisitions was an engineer named Bill Lewis, who happened to be one of the US’s leading engineers for geothermal piping and power systems. POWER immediately began lining up work in this interesting but obscure field. This work, in turn, led to an alliance with a gigantic ally, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the world’s leading manufacturer of large geothermal turbine and condenser equipment. With MHI, POWER is now winding up construction support for its second 52 MW geothermal plant on the Philippine island of Mindanao, and is in full design activity for two more geothermal plants in Latin America; the 100 MW Cerro Prieto plant in Mexico, and 27.5 MW Miravalles III in Costa Rica. Geothermal energy development, because of worldwide interest in use of renewable resources and even keener worldwide interest in reserving high-markup energy resources for lucrative export markets, is enjoying a healthy future in many of the nations located along the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,” where geothermal resources are abundant.
Cooking With Gas: The Gas Turbine Connection
Another important alliance for POWER was launched in 1993, when POWER signed up to be the engineer for two 10 MW combined cycle cogeneration plants. The two plants were built in two Idaho potato process plants by Solar Turbines, the Caterpillar subsidiary and the world’s top manufacturer and supplier of small-to-medium capacity gas turbine engines. The Idaho Cogeneration plants were completed in 1995. POWER is now starting work on another Solar cogeneration installation at a refinery in Valdez, Alaska, and will shortly complete design of a combined cycle installation for Kodiak Electric Association, the utility company for Kodiak Island, Alaska. Other gas turbine projects have involved installation design work for Solar engines in Turkey and Angola, at facilities owned by Goodyear and Chevron, respectively. In the field of large gas turbine work, POWER is the engineer for a 100+ MW combined cycle repowering project in the Ukraine scheduled to begin in 1999. POWER was the plant engineer for the GE/Exergy Kalina Cycle Reference Plant Project, a reference plant design for an advanced combined cycle installation based on a Frame 9 gas turbine engine.
A Peachy Outlook
All of POWER’s other branch offices — Portland, Boise, Denver, and St. Louis — are slated for growth from 1999 on into the new millennium, but Hudgins and Copeland figure that POWER’s Atlanta presence in particular will give a fast-moving, hard-working small-town engineering company some distinctly fresh opportunities: new projects, new clients, new people to work with, new places to fish.