Electric vehicles

Electric Vehicles Infrastructure: Four Tips to Set Communities Up for Success

November 15, 2022
By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager, WSB

Electric vehicles (EV) are here, and consumer demand is growing. That means more communities are exploring how to integrate EV chargers into their city planning. The bipartisan federal infrastructure law passed last year, which created programs like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, opened the door for even more funding opportunities and grants for cities to install fast charging stations. 

The problem, however, is that many cities don’t have an EV policy or goals in place. If communities don’t begin preliminary planning and outline larger policy goals, going after funding opportunities can leave cities scrambling and unprepared.

Here are a few tips and ideas that can help cities prepare for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and advance a plan that best fits the needs of residents and businesses, providing for positive future growth. 

  • Start the conversation and ensure policies are up to date. Initiating conversations with city administrators and/or city council members is an important first step, especially if electric vehicles have not been on the radar of community leaders to date. Determine what actions need to be taken including updating zoning codes. Do your codes allow for charging infrastructure or do guidelines need to be updated? Should the city encourage or require charging infrastructure with new construction? Is certain signage required where chargers are placed? Guidelines must be in place so that the community can meet its EV goals and promote orderly development. 
  • Determine your city’s plan and budget. Different communities have different goals for EVs, and it’s important to adopt goals that reflect the needs of residents, businesses, visitors, and the community. Does it make sense to take on an ownership model where the community owns the EV charging stations and related infrastructure, including maintenance and upkeep? Will it make more sense to work with a third-party vendor to own and operate the equipment on city property? Is your city installing chargers for city owned EVs? Should the ownership model be the same as publicly available chargers or different for fleet vehicles? By clearly defining and establishing structured goals and budgets, cities can determine what works best for their city, staff capacity, and budgets. 
  • Work with your utilities and look at your infrastructure power capabilities. As more EV chargers are built and utilized, cities must also look if they have the infrastructure and power capacity to support it. Utilities will sometimes help cover the cost of upgrading power systems or help find ways to balance capacity by setting higher fees at peak demand times. By working to communicate costs and decisions with utility companies, cities can avoid undue stress and complications. It is important to consider upfront costs, monthly or annual fees, and possible profit both in the short and long term based on the ownership model you determined in #2. Additionally, working with your building maintenance and electrical teams can help you understand your building’s electrical capacity.  
  • Consider why these upgrades are important. Growing consumer demand and more funding for EV infrastructure are just two of the reasons why cities should have an EV plan in place. Some communities are using their fast-charging infrastructure to attract business and residents, advertising itself as an EV ready city. Still other communities find opportunities to partner with companies to place charging stations in popular areas to boost visits to local restaurants and businesses. EV infrastructure can also help communities reach their sustainability goals as transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no one-size-fits-all EV plan for cities, and WSB is ready to assist with determining a strategy and workplan, policy writing, grant applications, reviewing zoning guidelines, and whatever else communities need to advance an electric vehicles infrastructure plan that’s right for your community.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

brathsack@wsbeng.com | 920.202.0234

Photo of Trees and Tree Canopy

Define, Preserve, and Increase Tree Canopy Cover to Support Sustainability Goals

By Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manager, WSB

Green infrastructure is a term that has gained momentum recently. It refers to the framework and benefits humans can harness by building, preserving, or maintaining a resilient natural system. Green infrastructure solves some of our most pressing drainage, heat, air, and water quality problems, particularly in areas with the most population. Trees are one of the most vital and effective green infrastructure components that contribute to many cities’ sustainability goals. From stormwater interception and soil conservation to carbon storage and sequestration to improving air quality and reducing heat island effects; tree canopy cover provides many benefits.

Sustainability Goal: Preserve or Increase Canopy Cover

Tree Canopy

Increasing tree canopy cover over time can have a large impact on a community’s sustainability efforts. To meet that goal, the first step is to understand the current canopy cover and perform a “look back” to examine past trends. To gain an understanding, the USDA Forest Service has a free i-Tree Canopy application that quantifies canopy cover across the community.  In the 7-county area of the Twin Cities, communities can use the Metropolitan Council’s “Growing Shade” mapping tool to observe canopy cover and develop goals based on local issues and priorities.  Another step is to quantify the number of ash trees in the community through a tree inventory. All ash trees are at a risk of death which will negatively impact canopy cover if not preserved.

Mature shade trees have a bigger canopy so they can capture and store more carbon than their newly planted counterparts. They also provide the most ecosystem benefits – all compelling reasons to preserve what is already established, while also adding new trees. If an inventory has not yet been performed, the community must determine if a statistical sample will be adequate or if a full tree inventory should be performed. Issues related to data collection variables, potential stratification of the city, long-term management and storage of the data must be considered.  

This quantification work requires expertise, months of implementation, and often exceeds staff time or budgets designated to accomplish the work. While many communities have planners or sustainability staff, they may lack the expertise that a city forester or an ISA-certified arborist has. Even in a community with a thriving forestry program, managing routine work may be at capacity and carrying out projects like a canopy analysis may not fit into the work plan.

How WSB Can Help

Whether it is achieving a Green Step Cities best practice, part of a larger sustainability or climate action plan, WSB staff are prepared to help you define, preserve, and increase your canopy cover with Forestry, Natural Resource and Sustainability experts. We help our clients assess existing canopy, explore trends, provide an inventory to assess species diversity and resiliency, define the ecosystem benefits that public trees are already providing, and examine tangible steps to preserve existing canopies. With the community’s goals in mind and data, we provide a clear strategy to maximize canopy cover over time.

Emily brings 20 years of experience, primarily in community forestry. She has extensive experience in contract administration, management of staff, AmeriCorps members and contractors, budget and grant management, plan review, tree health and condition inspections, outreach and education. She works closely with partner organizations, staff, and the community to educate, manage natural resources and provide excellent customer service.

eball@wsbeng.com | 651.318.9945

Geothermal Feasibility

Renewable Energy Match: Combining Clean Energy Exploration & Detailed Economic Analysis in a One-of-a-Kind Tool

By Jen Holmstadt, Senior Project Manager, WSB

With more and more businesses setting comprehensive sustainability goals that include net-zero carbon emissions, many are unsure what is the best way to achieve those goals or what renewable energy investment will be most effective. Sustainability investment should be data driven and can be done in a way that both protects the environment and a business’ bottom line. 

WSB and iD8 have partnered to create a new one-of-a-kind analysis – Renewable Energy Match – that provides clients with a full understanding of renewable energy options, and comprehensive data analysis to drive financial-based decision-making. It goes beyond traditional energy evaluation by combining economic data with place-based environmental information.

Explore clean energy options that meet your needs.

Many companies exploring clean energy solutions often first look to solar and wind energy. Those are excellent renewable energy sources, but there is also untapped potential in sources like hydrogen, geothermal energy, and renewable natural gas. 

Every organization has different needs when it comes to renewable energy, so a plan that is customized to individual needs, takes into account location, and is driven by thorough research and data is critical. 

How Renewable Energy Match works.

Most companies base their renewable energy decisions off financial feasibility. WSB has taken that concept further and developed a 4-phase approach to determine which renewable energy option is best for each specific client. The process includes:

  1. First-order feasibility study This first step provides a high-level geospatial analysis of the area the client is operating within to determine what resources are available for renewable energy production. It includes iD8 financial assessments for each energy form and an overall optimization for each energy.  A risk assessment of external factors that could influence the performance of energy sources is also part of this phase. 
  2. Strategic Planning This stage provides a deeper exploration of local energy resources that are available, as well as their acquisition costs, parcel ownership, local energy grids, climate analysis, and more. 
  3. Final Design & Regulatory Planning Once the strategic plan is complete, infrastructure planning and design, environmental and resource assessments, and land permitting can begin.
  4. Energy implementation The final phase is to begin energy production and implementation at the selected facility. 

Who can benefit from Renewable Energy Match?

There are many types of businesses and organizations that can benefit from Renewable Energy Match including companies with net-zero goals, businesses with multiple facilities or campuses, universities, utilities, and companies looked to expand their energy renewable energy portfolios..

This one-of-a-kind analysis allows clients to strategically explore the costs, sources, and options around renewable energy on a digital platform, and advance investments that will best meet the needs of a client from both an economic and sustainability perspective. 

Want to learn more about Renewable Energy Match? Check out our website to explore more, contact a WSB expert, or schedule a demo

Jen Holmstadt has been a project manager and geomorphologist in the oil/gas and transportation industries for over fifteen years. Her experience characterizing and remediating contaminated soils/sediments on large river projects, led Jen to focus on designing and implementing geohazard risk assessment programs.

jholmstadt@wsbeng.com | 612.619.9215

Electric Vehicles

Understand How the Infrastructure Bill Supports Expanding Electric Vehicle Fleets and Charging Infrastructure

By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager, WSB

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is opening opportunities for states, local government, school districts, and tribal communities across the U.S. to expand electric vehicle (EV) fleets and related infrastructure. Included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan funding package is more than $7.5 billion to help accelerate the adoption of EVs and associated charging infrastructure. As part of this funding, states are each receiving tens of millions in funding through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program. There is also funding earmarked for charging and refueling infrastructure grants, which go through the U. S. Department of Transportation to state and local governments, as well as metropolitan planning organizations to help fund alternative fuel corridors. Furthermore, some funding is earmarked specifically for competitive grants that will support innovative approaches that expand charging infrastructure in rural and low-income communities and corridors. 

So, what exactly does the Infrastructure Law mean for EV infrastructure, and how can communities take advantage of this historic funding investment? Here are a few thoughts.

Make a Plan

Many communities are unsure what model will work best for their needs. There is not a one-size-fits-all model, and leaders should ask questions like these below to make a plan that works best to meet their unique needs:

  • Does it make sense to take on an ownership model where the community owns the EV charging stations and related infrastructure while assuming responsibility for the long-term operations and maintenance?
  • Will it make sense to own and then lease EV infrastructure, recovering fees through a third-party vendor?
  • Should our city plan to let a third-party install and manage EV infrastructure completely? How can we meet the needs of all of our residents, including those that don’t live near highways or shopping hubs, or those living in multi-family complexes, etc.?
  • How can transportation electrification help advance economic development and meet climate goals?

Having a strategy is critical if communities want to be ready to tap into grant and funding opportunities for charging infrastructure when they become available later this year. Looking to, and updating, a community’s comprehensive plan can help to navigate and plan for the future of EV’s. It will also position a community to successfully submit a competitive grant application to fund their plan.

Vehicle Purchasing and Fleets

Just as the Infrastructure Bill is expanding access to EV charging infrastructure, it also will help fund EV purchases for communities and school districts. Specifically, there is $5 billion in funding for school districts that want to upgrade their school buses to clean or zero-emission models.

But whether looking to update city vehicles, public buses, or school buses, it’s important for leaders to understand how EVs can benefit them and build a plan that meets their needs. Questions to ask when thinking about updating to electric fleets include:

  • Are the vehicles in need of upgrades? Are they in an urban or rural community? How far does a vehicle travel on average per day?
  • Is our community in a hot or cold weather climate which may mean fewer efficiencies in extreme weather? How can we begin with a pilot project so that we can learn how the vehicles meet our needs and build capacity for EVs in our organization?
  • What kind of grant should we pursue – charging infrastructure and/or fleet updates? What is our plan to phase out the work as these grants are released? Do we have internal staff to do this or do we need additional help?

There are many ways to update EV fleets and charging infrastructure that will significantly benefit communities and the environment but ensuring the investment fits with the needs of the school district or community is important.

How WSB Can Help

The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act is a massive funding package that provides meaningful opportunities to accelerate EV fleet and infrastructure adoption, reduce emissions, and meet the needs of communities. Here are some of the ways WSB can help leaders navigate and tap into accelerating EV fleet and infrastructure adoption:

  1. Updating comprehensive plans to plan for EV infrastructure adoption.
  2. Strategizing and helping create an ownership model for a community’s EV charging infrastructure.
  3. Engineering and public works services to help design and plan for EV charging stations.
  4. Navigating regulations and zoning requirements.
  5. Helping prepare for, and assisting with, grant applications for EV-related projects.
  6. Nesting your EV work in your broader sustainability, resiliency, and climate goals.
  7. Designing spaces for EV charging infrastructure that meet accessibility requirements and work with landscape architecture, signage, etc.

If your community does not have the staff capacity or resources to manage EV infrastructure internally, WSB is available to discuss options and strategies. Residents, consumers, and businesses are demanding more sustainable transportation options including electric vehicles. Now is the time for communities to explore options, target historic funding investments, and advance their vision for the future.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

brathsack@wsbeng.com | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

ezweber@wsbeng.com | 612.581.0504

Solar-Renewable Energy

Is Your Community Ready for Solar Energy

By Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager and Amy Fredregill, Sr Director of Sustainability, WSB

Solar energy systems, such as solar panel arrays, are becoming increasingly less expensive to install and are generating more energy than before. The lower initial investment is resulting in a shorter time required for the savings on your city’s electricity bill to cover the initial cost of installation. In the long run, solar energy systems save money, generate jobs, and provide clean energy to your citizens. The low maintenance costs, economic stimulation and many other benefits make solar energy a strong option.

Here are four things to consider when exploring solar energy options for your city:

  • How do your citizens, businesses and other stakeholders feel about climate and renewable energy? How do you expect that to change in the future?              
    • Renewable energy options may be one way to advance your community’s climate and sustainability goals and interests, while meeting the needs of a range of stakeholders.
  • Does your electricity provider have a green tariff, green power program, or net energy monitoring program?
    • These programs partner with cities and businesses to provide the best value for renewable energy. Exploring which options your electricity provider may have can save on cost, and ensure you are maximizing your resources.
  • Is increasing awareness and education a goal of your energy program?
    • If so, onsite solar generation can have an even stronger business case due to the local visibility it provides.
  • How will investment tax credits (ITCs) and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) be capitalized within your project investment?      
    • Municipalities can have difficulties recovering incentives such as ITCs and SRECs. Exploring potential partnerships prior to installation can create funding opportunities to shorten your payback period.

Every solar energy solution looks different. For community leaders facing challenges and planning for the future, it can be difficult to know when and where to start. When we partner with clients, we help them explore what opportunities their community can tap into for solar energy considerations.

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

ezweber@wsbeng.com | 612.581.0504

Amy has over 20 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across intersecting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions.

afredregill@wsbeng.com | 612.965.1489

Solar-Renewable Energy

Supporting a Cleaner World Through Resiliency

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY STRATEGIES.

By Amy Fredregill, Sr. Director of Sustainability and Brigid Lynch, Geomorphologist/Climatologist Hazard Specialist, WSB

With the release of the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the need for businesses, governments, and civilians to accelerate their efforts to build greener economies and avoid a global climate crisis is clear. Businesses and all levels of government are seeing increased climate risk along with demand from customers and community members to find innovative solutions that reduce emissions in energy, transport, and other industries.

The primary strategy to prepare for the future includes increasing energy and water efficiency and creating renewable energy plans while simultaneously managing the impacts that have already reached us, like an increase in extreme weather events.

Renewables and the economy.

Companies and consumers are becoming more selective of who they choose to work with and purchase from, focusing on carbon footprints and those committed to renewable goals, driving growth, and encouraging companies to be innovative. The future of renewables is booming and will ultimately reduce cost and risk, meeting the wants and needs of the consumer. Local governments are also strategically transitioning their operations to be more climate friendly, including securing renewable energy.

Developing predictive tools.

In response to extreme weather events and changing demands, WSB is developing a GIS-based tool to help businesses and government entities strategically transition their operations to renewable energy sources. The tool adapts to client needs and allows them to select which renewable sources should be included in their renewable plans. The tool is predictive, incorporating climate change projections that will affect energy production and operations in the future, and integrates cost and benefits of different sources of renewable energy technologies.

The new tool produces energy production calculations, climate risk assessments and suitability rankings. This data helps companies identify where the risks lie, so they can achieve their future goals, make informed decisions, and come up with solutions to achieve those goals.

The future of renewable energy.

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy currently makes up 26% of the world’s electricity, but that share is expected to grow to nearly 30% by 2024. As the demand for renewable energy sources and strategies grows, we have the unique opportunity to support a greener world, reduce cost and risk and meet customer demands.

Amy Fredregill
Sr Director of Sustainability
afredregill@wsbeng.com

Brigid Lynch
Geomorphologist/Climatologist Hazard Specialist
blynch@wsbeng.com

Building Resiliency into Public Works

By Amy Fredregill, Sr Director of Sustainability, WSB

Reliable resources are necessary for every municipality, and consequently, sustainability in public works programs has grown into a long-term goal for municipalities. Prioritizing sustainability and resiliency in a municipality’s infrastructure ensures that programs are reliable, so that when a user turns on their faucet or light switch, water or electricity is delivered.

Resiliency is an important part of sustainability planning. Resiliency is achieved by having a maximum number of options to be able to pivot and adapt to a disruption in an infrastructure system. For example, a main road in a user’s neighborhood could be under construction, or a resident may not have a vehicle. If the municipality has walkways or bikeways through the neighborhood, the user has the option to walk or bike to their job, store, or pharmacy. The ever-expanding choices can lead to healthier communities, encourage tourism, commerce and more.

Cultivating resiliency is not as complicated as it may sound; creating a walkway or bikeway trail system in a neighborhood is only one example. A municipality can invest in water reuse, renewable energy, energy efficiency, stormwater and flood management systems, too. The programs can be built into a large sustainability plan. Moreover, due to evolving technology, increased adoption rates and system investments, energy choices such as renewable energy and conservation can reduce costs and risks. Communities can take advantage of tax credits for renewables, rebates for conservation, and hedge financial risk through emissions reductions.

The systems we rely on – power and gas grids, water and wastewater systems – are complex and critical to daily life. With the significant progress in energy choices at our disposal, cities can offer more services to residents such as electric vehicle charging, helping them to reduce their monthly bills through energy audits and weatherization, increasing outreach and awareness on clean energy programs, and more.

Winter storms underscore the value of having a range of options at our disposal. By having a diverse menu of power generation options and increasingly energy-efficient operations, communities can be more resilient and adapt to changing circumstances. These are things that cities and communities are thinking about for their own sustainability plans. Prioritizing sustainability and resiliency in municipal systems can help prevent, adapt to and mitigate disruptions in the future.

Amy has nearly 25 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across intersecting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions.

afredregill@wsbeng.com | 612.965.1489

Starting a sustainable cycle

A virtual webinar on launching sustainable initiatives.

Organizations of all types and sizes are taking a more proactive stance on sustainability issues to meet evolving customer needs and making sustainably minded changes that can increase their revenue, reduce costs and build new markets and service. But for many one question complicates their efforts; how to get started?

In partnership with Finance & Commerce, WSB recently hosted a virtual webinar that provided examples of sustainable processes and how they came to be.

Panelists included:

  • Bryan Baer, City Administrator, City of Hugo, MN
  • Steve Compton, CFO and EVP at Sevana Bioenergy
  • Bruce Loney, Board Manager, Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District
  • Moderated by: Amy Fredregill, Director of Sustainability, WSB

During the webinar, our panelists led us through their proactive approaches to sustainability initiatives including:

  • How the city of Hugo is using less water and reducing costs despite its growing population
  • How a dairy farm is increasing their revenue by making and selling biogas
  • How mitigating invasive carp is leading to improved water quality in a Watershed District

Watch the webinar

Download the presentation

For more information on sustainability, contact Amy Fredregill.

Defining Sustainability at WSB

Amy Fredregill, WSB’s senior director of sustainability shares WSB’s approach to sustainability.

At WSB, as well as for many other thought leaders, sustainability simultaneously advances economic, social, and environmental outcomes, thereby meeting the needs of current and future generations. Each aspect – economic, social and environmental – is like a leg on a three-legged stool. If one leg is shorter or weaker than another, the stool is not stable. No part of the stool exists in a silo, but instead is connected as a system to serve any number of purposes.

Modern sustainability is key to finding opportunities in 21st-century challenges like waste generation, soil, air, and water pollution, and a limited supply of resources. Stakeholders are working on each challenge by designing and piloting new approaches. Community needs constantly change and often involve complex infrastructure challenges that span many systems. For example, every community requires transportation systems, sewage, water, and electric systems for quality of life.

Communities can start or scale up today, toppling the barriers to sustainability and reaping the benefits, which include cost and risk reduction, access to new markets, providing cost-effective products and services to meet consumer demand, attracting businesses and top talent to your region or company, keeping communities healthy and creating economic development. Through innovation and collaboration, maintaining each leg of sustainability- economic, social and environmental- communities are prepared to meet the needs of people now, and people tomorrow.

Sustainable solutions are realistic, cost-effective and already being used by WSB clients across the country. In the city of Hugo, Minn., a northeast Twin Cities suburb, a citywide stormwater reuse program is saving tens of millions of gallons of water a year by irrigating land with stormwater instead of water pumped from a local aquifer. The municipality and its residents save money on water and power bills, effectively turning what was once a waste stream into a revenue stream. On the heels of a one-in-100-year weather event that knocked out the power grid across all of Texas, Fort Bend County is building solar power infrastructure on over 3,200 acres of property, minimizing energy consumption and maximizing energy efficiency. In these and many other communities, we are delivering sustainable solutions, such as water reuse, stormwater and flood management, municipal resiliency and comprehensive planning, native landscaping, and renewable energy.

Sustainability enhances regional competitiveness and furthers economic development. Today, businesses and people are seeking out communities with a smaller, lighter footprint, eager to pump money into sustainable economies. Investing in solar energy can lower energy costs and improve environmental outcomes. Prairie restoration in a community park can increase ecological diversity and create a welcoming recreational area. Economic, social and environmental benefits are co-benefits, and businesses and people see them. By improving the outcomes of one, you improve the outcome of another. 

Sustainable approaches build strength into the infrastructure that supports our lives as community needs change. Through innovation and collaboration, maintaining each leg of sustainability- the economy, society and the environment – communities are prepared to meet the needs of people now and people tomorrow.

Amy has nearly 25 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across intersecting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions.

afredregill@wsbeng.com | 612.965.1489