The power and energy sector will see a surge in activity in the coming years. Globally renewable power capacity must triple to meet the 2030 goals, and the UK government estimates £100 billion of private investment will be put into the UK’s green energy transition.

Net zero targets mean a profound switch in where we source our energy with growth in wind and solar farms, and nuclear power stations, as well as investment in infrastructure to create the Smart Grid the UK will need, as well as electrical vehicle charging, energy storage, heating networks and more.

These projects all involve civil engineering that must adhere to specific and detailed standards. To avoid costly errors and delays, and identify the optimal solution to each challenge, it’s vital to work with a partner with experience of similar projects.

The importance of risk reduction in power and energy

Power and energy is one of the most carefully regulated engineering sectors. The cost of failure or delay can also be unusually high. If you are connecting a substation to the grid, for example, there will be an outage while you do so. The date will typically be set years in advance, with no possibility of requesting a short delay if needed.

“Everything has to be right first time,” comments WCS Managing Director Asa Whitfield. “Not just the overall engineering – we need to have sought the correct permissions, satisfied the relevant standards, and forgotten no detail. An engineer without sector-specific experience may not realise until late on that there is an unaddressed requirement, especially given that you’re dealing with very complex programmes of work.”

WCS is a specialist that works often with bodies such as National Grid or SSE, and with the key main contractors, Independent Connection Providers and other partners from the sector.

Recent projects include:

Do you look to your consultant for answers – or questions?

Contributing as a consultant can often mean going beyond confident answers. Whether the issue is one of risk reduction or drawing on experience to spot potential issues in advance, raising the right question is often what makes the most difference to projects.

“Any good civil engineer can design you a substation structure and foundations,” explains Asa, “but have they thought about how equipment such as the transformer will be brought onto site – which approach road, and is there room to turn into the location? Do you plan to skid it in? If you plan to lift it, have you established where the crane will sit?”

The cooling oil alone on a large transformer might weigh 100 tonnes. The consultant must know that the bund has sufficient capacity to hold that, in case of a leak, and that it will also need to cope with a combination of oil and rainwater, with rainwater calculations allowing for the impact of future climate change and ensuring that the system prevents contamination when discharged. Other considerations in this one area alone include:

  • Ensuring sufficient venting of heat
  • Assessing noise level and proximity to potential receptors
  • Ensuring the correct steps have been taken in relation to safety issues such as overpressure and fire.

Added benefit from early engagement

“We’ll work whatever way is needed. For example, our work on Viking Link involved review and adaptation of design done by another consultant,” adds Asa. “But wherever possible, we do urge partners to err on the side of early engagement rather than late. Often the value we add is at the feasibility and concept stages, identifying the optimal way forward. One of the most important things we do is tender support, helping the client secure the contract in the first place. We did a lot of work with Hitachi Energy securing an onshore substation development project at Dudgeon & Sheringham Shoal and also Dogger Bank. It is very rewarding to be able to work on these projects from bid, through to completion, and that continuity and depth of project knowledge delivers value for the client.”

Constraints involving space on site and for access, have been mentioned in relation to transformers, but such issues can arise in almost any power and energy project we do. The best way to ensure there are no last-minute concerns about fence lines or vehicle routes, is to speak as early in the planning stage as possible to a civil engineer who deals with similar work again and again.

Support through all stages

Before detailed design commences, the right partner will help identify the best solution to propose, and work towards winning the contract. Detailed design born of experience is engineering you can have confidence in, but our work doesn’t end there. As standard we come out on-site at preliminary and later stages, checking assumptions and progress on the ground. Our staff are often nominated to wider roles such as Temporary Works Coordinator, or Lead Civil Engineer, and we very regularly source and oversee specialist support such as ground, utility, and topographic surveys.

Our experience in the power and energy sector means we approach each new engineering problem with technical confidence and with strong knowledge of the processes and expectations involved. The cost of good consulting support is very low in comparison to many other costs on such projects. Like the right insurance policy, the value is potentially immense.

To find out more about our services, please contact us on +44(0)20 3581 7847, or via our contact page.