The Environment+Energy Leader Honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.
Meet Nicole Bulgarino, executive vice president and general manager of federal solutions for Ameresco. Nicole is responsible for the overall management of one of Ameresco’s leading business unit. Serving federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, General Services Administration and Department of Justice, her team designs and develops projects focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy. “I oversee a team of 315 professionals who specialize in a variety of capabilities, from business development and engineering to commissioning, construction, operations and maintenance, and performance assurance,” she says. “Through my role, I also manage the Southeast regional business unit, focusing on customers in the municipal, higher education, K-12 schools and healthcare markets.”
Tell us about your biggest energy management challenge and how you are addressing it.
Nicole Bulgarino: Energy reliability continues to be a challenge for our customers. With many placing a heavy focus on intermittent renewable solutions, like wind and solar, customers are struggling to take integrated, comprehensive approaches. Though intermittent renewables offer the benefit of easy implementation, smaller size, and broad distribution ability, they’re easily impacted by weather fluctuations, which can affect their reliability if not properly supported by the grid. Given this, we continue to recommend to our customers that they implement firmPreview Changes (opens in a new tab) renewable solutions, like biogas and geothermal energy, in addition to intermittent renewables. Firm renewables are not reliant on outside forces, like weather fluctuations, and thus strengthen a renewable energy portfolio holistically.
At Ameresco, we have always prioritized client centric solutions. For each of our customers, we work to develop a plan that meets their energy needs. I often challenge my team to identify and implement innovative solutions that exceed customers’ needs, and to ensure resiliency for their operations. We incorporate energy storage systems and firm renewable technologies so they aren’t solely reliant on intermittent power sources as well as key utility infrastructure upgrades
What was a successful project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Do you have any tips that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects?
NB: I am incredibly fortunate to be part of a team that values innovative thinking and stays at the forefront of cutting edge technologies. A few years ago, in 2016, I saw both the need for our Federal customers and the untapped potential in utilizing the Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) market. I wanted Ameresco to solidify itself as an industry leader in the space, so I helped to launch the Center of Excellence in BESS and Microgrids, a company-wide monthly virtual training series for employees (e.g., engineers, project developers, sales representatives, marketing professionals, etc.) designed to equip them with the necessary information and tools to understand the latest in battery storage solutions as well as technologies in the energy sector.
Our teams have used this knowledge in developing a number of customer projects. For example, we developed a comprehensive plan for the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, which is responsible for training more than 20,000 recruits annually and is the only such training facility on the eastern seaboard. The project consisted of an intelligent microgrid control system, solar photovoltaic (PV) generation assets and a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, and was implemented to enhance energy resiliency and preserve the continuity of mission-critical operations at the 246-square-mile military training complex. The base is now able to accumulate $6.9 million in annual utility cost savings and reduce carbon emissions by over 37,000 metric tons while reducing utility energy demand by 75 percent and water consumption by 25 percent.
Another successful project utilizing innovative technologies was a floating solar PV system at Fort Bragg, an Army housing station with over 50,000 active-duty personnel. Completed in June, the installation is intended to provide continuous power generation and facility efficiency improvements, save over $2 million in first-year utility costs and reduce water usage by 20 percent
What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years?
NB: I see energy resiliency continuing to be a priority, as climate change will continue to be one of the largest threats to our planet. Climate change can impact every aspect of our power grids, but new strategies for energy resilience can play an integral role in combating and offsetting its negative effects. The untapped potential of resilient and reliable power will continue to grow as the capabilities of innovative technologies like microgrids advance. New microgrid requirements are being created in different places to ensure more resiliency from power outages and enable participation from new, flexible technologies like energy storage.
Tell us about a favorite hobby, passion or book you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you and your work.
NB: My team knows that even on the busiest days, I attempt to make physical activity a priority at some point. Focusing on my physical health has an incredible impact on my ability to perform and engage mentally throughout each day. OrangeTheory Fitness is my favorite, both at home and when I’m traveling at the many locations across the country. I love the competitive atmosphere of the leaderboard during the workout with a group, but especially enjoy the opportunity to compete with myself each time I show up for a workout while being energized by others around me.