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May 31, 2013

Google Invests $1B in Green Energy Projects
Filed under: Energy — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m a big fan of Google, but this story has me wondering. Yesterday, Google announced they invested $12M US in a South African Solar farm. The 96 MW facility will take advantage of a government program that subsidizes solar.

Here’s a list of green energy projects Google has undertaken.

GOOGLE’s $1 billion in clean energy investments

1. $12 million in the Jasper Power Project, a solar power plant to be built in South Africa

2. $200 million in the Spinning Spur Wind Farm, a 161-megawatt wind farm in West Texas

3. $75 million in the Rippey Wind Farm, a 50-megawatt wind farm in Iowa

4. $94 million in four solar photovoltaic projects being built by Recurrent Energy near Sacramento

5. $75 million to create a fund with Clean Power Finance to help up to 3,000 homeowners go solar

6. $280 million in a SolarCity fund to help 8,000 customers go solar

7. $168 million in BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah project, a solar thermal plant currently being built in California’s Mojave Desert

8. Investment in the Atlantic Wind Connection, critical transmission infrastructure for offshore wind power

9. $157 million into Alta Wind, a wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California

10. $100 million in the Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Oregon

11. $38.8 million into two wind farms in North Dakota

12. $5 million in a solar power plant in Brandenburg, Germany

It seems to me most of these investments make no economic sense without huge government subsidies. I wonder why so much gets spent on technologies, from what I can find, aren’t even close to being economically viable.

I hope Google can prove me wrong. I’d love to see some published numbers that show all the lifecycle costs and the true energy rate delivered.


May 29, 2013

Crane Falls on Russian Apartment Building
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

When you see that amazing thing and think, “Wow, I wish I had a video camera.” Well, this guy in Kiev, Russia caught that incredible shot below.


As you do your work this week, remember that the guy running the crane that day was not planning to have an accident. He just wasn’t paying proper attention. Don’t let this week be your last, from something you can prevent.

By the way, that crane accident tore the balconies off the apartment building and damaged a few cars, but no humans were injured.


May 28, 2013

Groundhog Stew: Rites of Passage
Filed under: People Skills — Tags: — nedpelger

When my 12 year old grandson Clay spotted the groundhog in the meadow, we both rushed over to grab the .22 rifle and some shells. He sneaked to get a clear shot and made it count. So what do we do next?

I can justify shooting groundhogs in the meadow just to help avoid holes that could break the donkeys leg. But this was his first varmit kill. He said a prayer over the carcass. Then we moved into the gutting and butchering stage.

As we gutted, he got a bit rammy with the intestines, tore them and got a terrible wiff. That led him to deposit his recently eaten supper on the grass next to us. But he got right back to work. We eventually got the guts out and started trying to carve chunks of meat off the carcass. He worked at this for quite a while and got a decent little pile of meat.

When I told TBW and his parents that we were going to make groundhog stew tomorrow, the response wasn’t favorable. TBW was positive it would be dangerous and we’d get sick (where does she get this stuff?). Clay’s father, though, looked up recipes online and agreed to do the cooking.

We ended up with an excellent meal of groundhog, carrots, broccoli and onions, with lots of spices. It tasted like a Chinese stir fry. Why do I tell this story? A hunter’s first kill shouldn’t just be discarded. The rite of passage of killing, cleaning, cooking and eating produces a permanent lesson.

One of my past customers and friends recently taught me how to shoot archery. As I practice, I’m impressed how well the basics work. I’ll continue to make mistakes, but move toward competence by always coming back to the basics.

As you look at your construction skills and projects, consider the rites of passage that you’ve endured. Think about how you should be helping others with theirs. What are the basics that you should be coming back to in order to improve?

Today, you are right here. To journey to where you want to go requires a first step, then another, then another. As you take that step and contemplate the next, remember rites of passage and the importance of the basics. And please pass me more groundhog stew.


May 23, 2013

A Study in Stupidity
Filed under: Ned Weirdness — nedpelger

Yesterday afternoon I was rolling around on the floor, biting into a towel and occasionally screaming in pain. My leg cramp pain exceeded the kidney stone pain, which was my previous pain pinnacle.

Perhaps the worst part was having no idea when or if it was going to end. Turns out, it was about 45 minutes of agony. So how did this happen? Completely brought on by my own actions, it was a study in stupidity.

I’ve been running some longer runs this year, realizing that the way to not annually injure my calves is to become more of a runner. So I slowly increased mileage and ran a half marathon in April and 15 miles a few weeks ago. That process has worked well, I competed in sprint triathlon this past weekend and felt great.

So I looked at my schedule this week and realized that Wednesday was a reasonably open day. I scheduled myself a 15 mile run at noon, not really considering that I should be letting my body rest after the tri. I also ignored the bright sun and 88 degree temperature. Since I carry water in a backpack, I figured I’d be fine.

I felt good on the run, though exhausted the last few miles and out of water. I considered walking the last bit, but that just isn’t me. Within 30 minutes of finishing, my legs were lighting up with cramps that just kept coming. It was torture.

So what do I learn? Dial down the pride and up the planning and thinking. That’s good advice for all of us in every area of our lives.


May 20, 2013

Demo of Sandy-Damaged Roller Coaster
Filed under: Cool Projects — Tags: — nedpelger

When hurricane Sandy blasted through New Jersey, the Seaside Heights roller coaster became one of her most famous victims. The iconic photo below helped raise relief funds.

But now it’s time to move on and that means demolition.  Here’s a photo from the Courrier-Post that shows a floating crane working on the demo.

Follow this link to see the video of the actual demo. It is fascinating.


May 17, 2013

Friday Fun: How a Man Hunts
Filed under: Ned Weirdness — Tags: — nedpelger

My friend Kneal sent me this video that will make you chuckle.


It’s how a real man hunts.

I love the matter of fact look on his face. Hope you have an equally astounding weekend…I’m planning to.


May 16, 2013

Construction Jobs Back, Workers Not
Filed under: Industry outlook — Tags: — nedpelger

With house building in the US surging, job growth should be tracking up proportionally. An ENR article describes why that’s not the case.

Simply stated, the construction recession lasted too long and many of the laid off workers found other jobs. Some paid better, but even those that didn’t have the advantage of not having the cyclic swing of construction. Many of the illegal immigrants that do construction work returned to their native lands. Many of the Mexicans returned to home to a strong economy with decent job prospects, they may not not need to come back to USA.

Of course, this trend doesn’t occur equally throughout America, but the areas that have the most housing growth are seeing construction wages increase for qualified folks. So you may need to travel, but the work (and the pay) is there.

The National Association of Home Builders says nearly half its members who responded to a survey in March said a scarcity of labor has led to delays in completing work. Fifteen percent have had to turn down some projects.

“I can’t find qualified people to fill the positions that I have open,” says Vishaal Gupta, president of Park Square Homes in Orlando, Fla. If not for the labor shortage, “I would be able to build more homes this year and meet more demand than I can handle today.”

As an industry, we need to see wages go up and recruit more young people into the trades. As an individual, you may see an opportunity here.


May 15, 2013

Bulldoozing the Ancients
Filed under: Sitework — Tags: — nedpelger

When the ancient world meets a bulldoozer, guess who loses? A recent news story tells about a contractor in Belize that needed fill for a road construction project. So they dug into the 100′ high Mayan pyramid of the Nohmul complex. The 2300 year old structure was a well known ancient ruin and located in an otherwise flat landscape.

Here’s a WikiPhoto of a Mayan pyramid to give a sense of what these bozos dug into.

No doubt it was an easy location for fill, but what were they thinking?

“These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It’s just bloody laziness”, said Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology .

“Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines,” said Awe. “To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can’t these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It’s mind-boggling.”

So try to get through your week without digging up ancient ruins or making any other bone head mistake. Set your goals high.


May 8, 2013

Google +: Don’t Fight the Trend
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

The Publicity Hound wrote an interesting piece about the dominance of Google +. I was an early supporter and have logged lots of connections, but haven’t really used it too much. I was thinking it may be a G-Failure but the reasons below tell me otherwise.

  1. Google + has become the backbone of the Google search engine experience. While Facebook hides all it’s info from Google searches, the Google + info gets included.
  2. Google + has over 400M  members, less than half of Facebook but way more than any other social networking site. Over 90M of those members are active and that number keeps growing.
  3. The Google + hangouts are becoming more and more used in business and social settings. As this trend of simple video chatting continues, you will want to be using Hangouts.

So the takeaway here is to get you business and your self on Google +. You still have time to get the advantage of being an early adopter. Don’t miss this wave, dude.


May 6, 2013

Government and Good Design Decisions
Filed under: Design — Tags: — nedpelger

On May 2nd, the EPA announced they will award over half a billion US dollars to water and wastewater treatment plants hit by Hurricane Sandy. Now that may seem laudable (if a bit slow), but further understanding exposes the silliness.

The plants that will get the awards either lost power or were flooded during the storm. These aren’t funds to repair damaged plants, for the most part, but to help plants in these areas of NY and NJ be better prepared for the next 100 year storm.

As you may know, under conditions of extreme flooding, most wastewater treatment plants don’t work well. They are designed to overflow in the worst flood situations, knowing that raw sewage gets so diluted in a huge flood that the actual pollution level is about the same as normal operations. That seems like reasonable design to me, when we understand we only have limited resources to solve our many societal problems.

The Federal Government, though, instead awards huge projects to plants that happened to be in the path of a certain storm. The next 100 storms will likely take different paths, so awarding all these upgrades based on geography just seems silly.

When governments make decisions to help certain projects for economic development, I sometimes see real value added. Projects that otherwise wouldn’t get done sometimes happen with a little government stimulus. Even these projects are hard to evaluate, since it’s impossible to know the project outcome had the government incentive not occurred.

So I think governments have a place to play in helping some construction projects, I just don’t like poorly made decisions.

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