Energy Efficient: How PaleoWest Can Help Speed Renewable Energy Projects to Completion

March 18, 2021

As of 2020, solar and wind energy combined accounted for roughly 9.1% of all energy production in the U.S. This figure is set to grow over the next five years as investment into renewable energy development projects—and demand for renewable energy—increases.

While this is great news, it’s not as easy as acquiring land and beginning construction. Developers need to first navigate a variety of local, state, and federal regulations and requirements, as well as considering the effects their projects have on cultural and paleontological resources. 

It’s at this critical permitting and licensing stage that many developers often run into dramatic challenges that can cause concern and anxiety over meeting project schedules and critical milestones.

Failing to onboard the right Cultural Resources Management (CRM) consultants, for example, can lead to unnecessary project delays that cost development firms, energy purchasers, and investors valuable time and money. For this reason, it’s paramount for developers to onboard a reliable CRM consulting firm that fully understands the importance of speeding projects to completion. Or, as we like to say, developers need an ally and not another hurdle to navigate.

We’ve supported some of the largest wind, solar, and power projects in the U.S. For Nextera, EDF, Avangrid, NRG, AES, Orion, and Terragen

Here at PaleoWest, we’ve gained a wealth of experience supporting major renewables clients for nearly two decades—such as NextEra, EDF, Avangrid, Orion, and TerraGen and as partners with their lead permitting and licensing consultants like Jacobs, HDR, and AECOM—to push projects forward swiftly and efficiently, without sacrificing attention to detail. 

Specifically, we’ve worked with clients across 14 states in the West, Midwest, and Southeast, providing cultural resource inventories, excavation, construction monitoring, and tribal consultation on renewables projects supporting:

  • Solar and Wind
  • Exploration
  • Extraction
  • Pipelines
  • Generation
  • Transmission

In addition, we also hold a Board position with the nationwide Leaders in Energy and Preservation (LEAP) organization. This is a 501(c)(3) organization composed of energy firms and cultural resource professionals with the goal of promoting best practices in managing cultural resources during gas-shale exploration, extraction, and transmission. 

Suffice to say, if you’re looking for a reliable CRM consultant and partner for your next renewables projects, you’ll be in safe hands with PaleoWest.In the sections that follow, we’ll deep-dive into our renewables project workflow. The purpose of which is to give you a greater understanding of our methods and ethos and also to highlight the efficiencies we bring to projects that ensure we stay on track and on budget—saving you time, money, and headache in the long run.

Renewables Project Workflow

Siting Studies

Risk assessment of project development area

Permitting & Licensing

Gain the necessary approvals to get going with construction.

Construction Compliance

Carry out any regulatory stipulations and conditions

Siting Studies

The primary goal of the siting studies phase is to analyze potential projects and conduct a risk assessment of the desired project development area to ascertain if any major environmental challenges exist. If such challenges are present, we help clients develop mitigative measures to counteract or address them before the permitting process begins and prior to allocating funding. 

Our staff will perform archival research, often including on-the-ground reconnaissance work, to assess for the presence or absence of any cultural or natural resources. We’ll then present our findings back to the client, offering insights into the varying degrees of complexity the resources will bring during the permitting phase of the project.

Over the years, we’ve developed sophisticated hand-held technology and ways of working that allow us to complete siting study work at speed, at scale, and to an unmatched degree of accuracy. Clients receive better quality work—faster—limiting the time projects spend in permitting and construction.

Valuable advisors who proactively diagnose and resolve potential challenges which could disrupt your projects.

Permitting & Licensing

During the permitting and licensing phase of the project, our primary goal is to gain the necessary approvals needed to get your project into the construction phase as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Our aim is to work as part of your team, supporting your schedule, your budget, and your public relations objectives. 

Since we’ve worked with some of the biggest firms in renewable energy—on some of the biggest projects in the U.S.—we’re true experts. In that time, we’ve helped successfully guide clients through the maze of local, state, and regulatory requirements needed to secure permits, licenses, and all other types of approvals required before construction can begin. 

In particular, we have extensive experience working alongside full-service environmental firms, helping deliver the entire range of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California Energy Commission (CEC), and Wyoming Industrial Siting Commission (WISD) documents, just to name a selection. We know permitting and we’ve repeatedly navigated all of these requirements.

We’re also uniquely able to use our expertise to proactively develop appropriate mitigation measures consistent with the impacts of the project.

Time and time again, we’ve successfully implemented the reduction and adjustment of mitigation requirements to the benefit of our clients—effectively limiting the preconstruction cultural and paleontological workload which would otherwise delay projects or result in higher costs.

Under all phases, we provide consultation and outreach support for developers to help facilitate communication between the developer and stakeholders, including Native American groups, as needed.

Construction Compliance

In this final phase, our aim is to execute any regulatory stipulations and conditions from the permitting and licensing phase efficiently and effectively. Typically, this includes mitigative tasks such as: 

  • Recovery or special documentation of cultural and paleontological resources
  • Preparation of discovery plans
  • Worker environmental awareness training 
  • Construction monitoring

Our expert staff has spent tens of thousands of hours working with construction personnel in major project environments—we fully understand both the risk level and how to conduct ourselves professionally and safely. Because of this, we’ve proudly stood alongside our clients and their contractors’ heavy equipment, helping them open some of the largest projects in the world.

In Action

The Palen Solar Project 

EDF Renewables, Riverside County, California 

‘The implemmented mitigation measures saved EDF in excess of $100,000.’

We are currently providing cultural resource support to EDF Renewables for the Palen Solar Project (PSP), located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Riverside County. Specifically, we drafted all cultural and paleontological plans for the PSP, including: 

  • Tribal Participation Plan
  • Monitoring and Discovery Plan
  • Cultural Resources Research Design and Plan
  • Paleontological Resources Monitoring and Mitigation Plan
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Plan of Action

Alongside this, we also supported EDF with cultural resource monitoring for preconstruction geotechnical and site fencing activities for the PSP. 

Lastly, we were instrumental in revising the cultural resource mitigation measures for the PSP, providing the language to avoid an overly burdensome survey far afield of the PSP that wasn’t in line with the effects the project will have on the landscape. We then successfully revised mitigation measures for the Desert Training Center to a much less costly mitigation program that still met the project’s requirements to mitigate project impacts. In all, the implemented mitigation measures saved EDF in excess of $100,000.

With offices across the country, our team can support your projects in any U.S. Location

Though we may be composed of Archaeologists, Paleontologists, and Architectural Historians, what sets us apart from other CRM firms is our ethos—business first. As scholars, we take great pride and joy in preserving the sites and artifacts that shaped our shared cultural history. However, our primary goal is, and always will be, to offer regulatory expertise which supports your business objectives. This means will look for solutions that enable us to push your projects through to completion as swiftly as possible.

Our goal is your goal; to speed projects through to completion while minimizing downtime and reducing costs wherever possible. Operating with a high degree of professionalism, and with decades of proven experience, we act as trusted advisors to our clients, who are often delighted by our proactive and speedy resolutions to problems delaying their projects. 

As mentioned throughout the article, we have a wealth of experience in supporting the development of renewable energy projects and currently have the capacity to support similar projects across the United States, and internationally. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help push your renewable projects through to completion faster, we encourage you to use the contact form below to get in touch with one of our renewables experts. 

We look forward to hearing from you and stand ready to help.

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