Case Studies

System 3 Inc.

Delivering the Future of Energy
  • Written by: System 3 Inc.
  • Produced by: System 3 Inc.
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

California-based System 3 Inc. (System 3) is a specialty electrical contractor with the ability to work nationwide, serving general industrial and commercial clients in the utility, wind and solar energy sectors. Tom and Julia Wilbert founded System 3 in 2001 primarily as a utility contractor working on electrical substations. In the company’s history work has shifted from solely utility contracts to include renewable energy projects with wind, hydro and solar power.

Tom Duffy, director of business development at System 3, reports that the company is capable of constructing utility-scale solar power plants, new wind turbine plants or constructing and rehabilitating utility substations and transmission lines. The company self-performs the majority of work on each project it takes on with a core group of about 200 employees.

“That sets us apart,” says Duffy. “We are truly a self-performing contractor that not only works in California, but everywhere in the United States using our own crews to do the work.” Duffy has worked for System 3 for three years and been a part of the industry for over 15 years. He sees System 3’s ability to diversify within its current markets and expand to other markets as key to the company’s success.

“We’re very well-versed,” says Duffy. “We work for owners, developers and major general contractors, but we also work for and understand the regional utilities and interconnection requirements to integrate renewable power projects with the power grid.”

Cutting-edge Projects

System 3 works with designers and engineers to build the infrastructure required to deliver electrical power in diverse ways. This ranges from core utility projects to turbines that harness wind energy and solar panels to power buildings and communities to substations for commercial and industrial clients. The company takes pride in tackling complex projects that demand careful coordination and management.

Sometimes the complexity of a project is based on the work’s location. Recently, System 3 completed a wind project on Fire Island in Alaska. “The Fire Island Wind Farm is a unique project,” says Duffy. “It was challenging since it was off the coast of Alaska on an island. Logistics became a huge consideration with this project.”

The wind farm was built on an abandoned military base in Anchorage Bay. This project included the installation of wind turbines and the electrical and communications collection system, tying to the local power grid. The wind farm is currently producing 18 MW of power for Anchorage area residents.

Another project that Duffy marks as notable is the Cirrus Wind Energy Center in Texas. It is home to the world’s largest land-based wind turbines and was the first installation of a Chinese turbine model in the country.

“There was no history of past installations,” says Duffy. “So we had to go to China and learn as the project unfolded.” The wind energy center required extensive site work to complete the project. Each turbine has a blade diameter of more than 300 feet and produces 3.6 MW of power. This project was one of a kind for the company and the country, presenting many challenges.

“We don’t make assumptions when presented with challenges,” says Duffy. “We either design the project ourselves or take the owners design and optimize it for the project.” Challenges are taken in stride by the System 3 team and addressed as they occur. The company uses this approach to stay on target to complete a project. “We’re not only competitively priced, but we get the projects done typically ahead of schedule,” says Duffy.

Waiting on Policy

With much of the work System 3 does is in the wind sector, there are tax credits involved to fund various projects. The amount of work the company has hinges heavily on decisions made by the government.

“If tax credits pass, we’ll have quite a few opportunities,” Duffy reports. “If it doesn’t, that’s our biggest challenge assuring we are diverse enough in other markets to continue sustained growth. It is hard to plan strategically more than a couple years down the road on the wind side since tax credits are renewed every two years or so.”

While sometimes wind power work can be on the fence, System 3 is able to keep its staff employed through substations, electrical line work and solar projects. “We’re gaining momentum in the solar market,” says Duffy. “Maintaining our work force in the low periods is important and that’s why we’ve diversified ourselves into the solar and other markets.”

Moving forward, Duffy believes System 3 will continue to work more in the wind and solar power markets. He sees diversification as the key to success. “I see us expanding through diverse even more nontraditional markets combining key acquisitions to help go after other opportunities than the ones we’re in right now,” he says. “We’re definitely in expansion mode.”

System 3 has opportunities to build new projects and also revamp existing systems to handle the power supply of the future. In order for the nation to continue to grow, so must the electrical infrastructure, which will keep System 3 Inc. busy for years to come.

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Spring 2018



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