Substations serve as a crucial component of the energy sector. Often considered the backbone of the power system, substations are critical in supporting the increased focus on renewable energy sources. As solar and wind farms grow in prominence, substations will be key in integrating these sources into the electric grid.

Such a critical part of a functioning network, and a major part of a sustainability-focused future, requires substation projects to be completed with the utmost attention to detail and quality. Value engineering, an organized approach with an emphasis on providing a cost-effective project without a sacrifice to quality, offers key benefits for substation engineer-procure-construct (EPC) projects:

  • Cost reduction. Value engineering identifies cost-effective solutions by analyzing design, materials and processes, while maintaining or improving the performance and quality of the substation. Completing in-depth research during the design phase can provide exceptional cost savings. For an EPC substation project, it’s important to begin geotechnical analysis early and to think broadly about foundation design. Some less-traditional foundation types, such as helical piles, may save the project time and money in construction.
  • Improvement in quality and reliability. Value engineering encourages a thorough review of design and materials, often leading to enhancements in quality. This improved quality can result in substations that are more reliable and require less maintenance over time. For substation projects, a crucial factor to consider is spare parts. Developing a well-planned spares list helps owners procure parts well in advance of the date needed, while optimizing pricing and availability of the parts.
  • Enhanced performance and efficiency. Substation performance and operations can be optimized through value engineering. This might involve a well-thought-out driving path allowing for safe access for operators or incorporating advanced technologies for optimal energy distribution.
  • Innovation, creative solutions and future-proofing. Value engineering fosters creativity, as it challenges the team to think critically and to identify innovative solutions. This can lead to the adoption of new technologies or unconventional approaches that enhance the project's value. Value engineering could be completed with an eye toward future-proofing the project, particularly when the project likely has future phases, such as adding extra conduit for future expansion for an underground transmission project.
  • Faster project delivery. By simplifying processes and designs, value engineering can reduce the time required for the construction and commissioning. This expedited delivery can be crucial, especially in projects with tight deadlines or projects where power supply is urgently needed. Planning for challenges early allows for seamless construction. For instance, expedited civil design and working closely with a permitting department could help avoid a seasonal tree clearing moratorium and provide for expedited construction in the following season. An EPC team can proactively think through these challenges before they can become reality.
  • Risk mitigation. Value engineering involves a detailed analysis of the project, which helps in identifying and mitigating potential risks early in the project life cycle. This proactive approach to risk management can prevent costly and time-consuming issues later in the project. In today’s challenging supply chain environment, one of the most important risk mitigation methods is optimal quality control for suppliers. Utilizing trained quality inspectors to witness suppliers’ fabrication and testing in the factory can help identify potential risks before a project is impacted.
  • Resource optimization. Value engineering helps in the optimal utilization of resources, including materials, labor and capital. This is particularly important in large-scale projects like substations, where resource allocation has a significant impact on overall costs.
  • Sustainability and environmental benefits. By promoting the use of efficient materials and processes, value engineering contributes to the sustainability of substation projects. This might include reducing the environmental footprint through better waste management, energy-efficient designs or the use of renewable energy sources. For example, specifying energy-efficient lighting and sensors helps to minimize energy consumption for a substation and reduces operational cost for the owner.
  • Satisfaction for Key Interested Parties. Value engineering often leads to solutions that meet or exceed expectations in terms of cost, quality and functionality. This enhanced satisfaction is crucial for maintaining positive client relations and building a strong reputation in the industry.
  • Compliance and safety. Value engineering helps see that the design and construction of substations complies with industry standards and safety regulations. By focusing on quality and risk assessment, value engineering contributes to creating safer work environments and operational practices.

From design through construction and commissioning, value engineering for substation EPC projects not only contributes to cost savings but also enhances quality, efficiency, innovation and sustainability. It's a strategic approach that aligns with the broader goals of reliability and safety in the energy sector.


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Jonathan Kadishson is a department manager at Burns & McDonnell, specializing in leading engineer-procure-construct project for large-scale offshore wind projects. With more than 20 years of experience in the energy industry, he brings vast knowledge to every project.