By Christine Graf
Since opening its U.S. headquarters in downtown Saratoga Springs in 2009, Natural Power has been providing renewable energy consulting services to customers throughout the country.
The Scotland-based company has worked on projects in 42 countries.
According to Jim Adams, president of North America operations, Natural Power works on large-scale utility generating systems and focuses primarily on wind and solar projects. They have engineers, atmospheric scientists, ecologists, and biologists on staff.
The company specializes in risk assessment of renewable energy projects. Their client base includes large banks and private equity firms. For these clients, Natural Power functions as what Adams describes as independent engineers.
“We will certainly work on behalf of someone who is building a commercial generating facility, but the lion’s share of our business is doing the independent engineering,” he said. “In cases where the project is getting close to going into construction, we are providing an independent review of the viability of the project and the risk associated with the project on behalf of the folks that are investing in that project.”
When contracted by a company that is building a facility, Natural Power acts as the “owner’s engineer.” They provide assistance in all aspects of the project including design, layout, permitting, and environmental reviews.
The company also works on projects related to energy storage which is used to store excess energy that is produced by facilities that produce electricity. According to Adams, there is a “big push” in New York to promote energy storage. The state’s Clean Energy Standard requires 50 percent of New York’s electricity to be generated by renewable source by 2030. Millions of dollars of incentives have been made available for energy storage projects throughout the state.
Discussing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic on business, Adams said, “We have had to get creative in how we deal with site visits, but it has largely been business as usual. We are a tech firm and are used to working remotely.”
Although the pandemic has not impacted the company directly, it has led to construction delays of renewable energy projects. These delays have created some uncertainty within the industry.
“It was a little rocky earlier in the year,” said Adams. “We were not sure how COVID would impact some of the projects that needed to be built by the end of the year to meet deadline for the production tax credit—a federal incentive that has been in place for renewable energy for past 20 something years. People were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get their projects finished on time, but the Treasury Department has relaxed the deadline. We now have an additional year of breathing room. That has given us a lot more confidence in the market in the near term, and long-term prospects look extremely strong.”
The renewable energy sector has also suffered from a lack of support from the Trump administration, he said. President Trump has been vocal in his opposition of wind energy.
“With any sort of technology, there’s always going to be opposition,” said Adams. “In my 20 years in the industry, I’ve heard a lot of things. But this administration has been throwing some curveballs and new stuff out there that has really caught us off guard.”
Despite these challenges, Adams predicts continued growth in the industry. In 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for about 11 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and about 17 percent of electricity generation.
“Some of the largest procurers of renewable energy happen to be large corporations that are looking to do their part in the fight against climate change. That’s really driving demand,” he said. “Wind has really been gaining steam over the last couple of years. We are quite bullish about the opportunities with offshore wind energy as well as improved storage technology and solar technology.”
The International Energy Agency predicts that offshore wind generation will grow 15-fold over the course of the next 20 years and become a $1 trillion global industry. Solar energy production is also expected to experience exponential growth.
Adams predicted the company will double in size in the U.S. over the next two to three years. They have additional U.S. office in Seattle and Golden, Colo. Its Saratoga office has 15 employees and was chosen as the company’s U.S. headquarters in part because of its proximity to New York City. Many of Natural Powers’ clients including banks and large investment houses are located in the Big Apple.
“I love this community and have lived in the area for most of my life. This is an ideal location to be close enough to clients and attractive to our staff in terms of having a very vibrant community and having access to all of the things we know and love in Saratoga,” he said.
By Christine Graf