Green Energy Poised to Leapfrog Ahead Post-Pandemic
Fortunately for green energy interests, market drivers and improved technology led to unprecedented growth in this sector over the last several years. Considering the beating currently being taken by the fossil fuel industry, it is widely agreed that green energy businesses would be suffering a great deal more from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were this not the case.
Still, the green energy sector has suffered. From providers to design and construction companies, organizations have been faced with everything from retooling to reskilling as a direct result of the pandemic—and these are the companies that have not faced imminent demise due to the effects of the crisis.
A recent article for Allegheny Front featured Kevin Gombotz, vice president of Envinity, a green design, and construction company, who provided insights into how the pandemic has impacted green businesses, as well as projections for the future. Envinity does a lot of work within the health care industry. Much of this entails designs to improve efficiency, as well as dedicated air handling and ventilation to help contain infectious agents.
Greening Up With Safety in Mind
From the outset of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., it became apparent to Gombotz and his colleagues at Envinity that this was going to impact the company. Obviously, the containment aspect of their work quickly became a high priority. “In the industry, they call it COVID response,” Gombotz said. “It’s how are they adapting their facilities to the changing needs now of having a more infectious population.”
A key to that, Gombotz said, is creating more negative pressure rooms for hospital patients. Negative pressure rooms are those which are designed to pull air in from the outside. The exhaust air within a room is filtered to eradicate any pathogens that might have been picked up from patients within the room. The low air pressure stops the air from leaving the room (even when the doors are open) while fresh air is allowed to come in, thus protecting anyone outside from infected air within a patient’s room.
“When you add more exhaust to a building because of more isolation rooms for COVID patients, then you need more outside air,” he said. Gombotz believes that the pandemic is going to have a significant long-term effect on how hospitals are designed, built and operated.
“There’s new thought towards, well, now that we have more time to plan for readiness for a potential second wave or what happens next flu season, the strategy is going to be to shift to be more orchestrated and less on the fly,” he said.
Slowing and Growing?
Jason Grottini, Envinity’s vice president of residential energy services, detailed the somewhat wild dynamic imposed on the company since the pandemic emerges, but expressed optimism for the future.
“We laid off 16 people, which predominantly make up our entire field operations staff, so carpenters, renewable energy installers, service technicians, HVAC installers,” Grottini said. This represents about a third of the company’s employees, but since construction in Pennsylvania was allowed to start again on May 1, Envinity has already hired everyone back. Before the pandemic, Envinity had four to six months of work lined up, with projects like solar panel installation comprising much of the project load.
Given that the company doubled its solar workforce over the past year, this is an encouraging development when considering green energy’s ability to recover once all of the pandemic-related cautions and restrictions are lifted.
Between lenders having become markedly skittish when dealing with fossil fuel sector projects, public awareness, and government and popular initiatives that are increasingly favorable to green energy, ironically, this pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for the industry.