A blog series chronicling all the solar array creation action
It’s no secret that launching and maintaining a successful community solar program is a complex process that varies from one market to the next, but regardless of market, the challenge of bringing a new solar array to life is one of the hardest (and most rewarding!) for a community solar developer.
We oftentimes receive emails or calls from curious SCE&G Community Solar program customers wondering where we are in the construction process, so in our latest blog series we’re going to share all the behind-the-scenes action happening with our South Carolina projects.
Currently we have three solar arrays under construction in the state: Springfield, Nimitz and Curie.
Construction began on the Springfield array at the end of September, and this array is the furthest along in the process. When construction first began, the first order of business at the site was using a regional commercial mowing team to clear the site of bushes, tall grass and shrubs. It took a few days to clear the approximately 50-acre site, but then it was ready for the next step: surveying.
In early October, a surveying team began working on the property to stake out all aspects of the future site including roads, fences, equipment locations…Even the thousands of piles that will eventually be driven into the ground.
Surveyors play a crucial role in land development, from the planning and design of land subdivisions through to the final construction of roads, utilities and landscaping. Surveyors are the first people on any construction site, measuring and mapping the land. These primary measurements are used by architects to understand and make the most of the unique landscape when designing. They are also used by engineers to plan structures accurately and safely, ensuring buildings not only fit with the landscape but are able to be constructed.
The surveying step takes a few days as the team uses satellite imaging, GPS, or aerial and terrestrial scanners to meticulously plot out site placement for all the equipment and materials that will be installed permanently.
Pictured: Teams use surveying equipment to plot out where each pile will be drilled.
Storm Water Management
After the survey crew leaves, storm water management materials need to be put in place. Storm water management is an important component of any construction project, as without proper practices in place, the lack of vegetation at a site along with storm water can create severe erosion that leaves areas vulnerable for water to move topsoil and deposit it in areas downstream. Erosion degrades the construction site by producing gullies and other problems that are expensive to correct.
Storm water management materials include black, plastic silt fences designed to keep any storm water runoff on-site. Storm water engineers may also elect to add filter socks to spots where water runoff may occur. Filter socks keep any dirt or debris from flowing off site. Finally, a third material – “check dams” – debris-catching rock piles, may be put in place across any on-site ditches. The entire storm water management plan takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to put in place.
Pictured: A filter sock is placed on-site to minimize water and debris runoff.
Permanent Fencing; Access Roads and Piles
After the storm water management materials are in place, permanent fencing and an access road are installed based on the surveyor’s plotting. Depending on the site, the access road may be a dirt road that runs throughout the site to help crews transport equipment while also supporting future maintenance. These steps take approximately a week each to complete.
After the access road and fencing is up, the surveyor returns to finish marking where the piles (poles) will be permanently placed, if they didn’t finish this step earlier in the process, and crews begin installing the piles. Getting the piles in place can take upwards of three weeks, depending on site size. Springfield for example, an 8 mwdc site, has 4,900 piles that need to be driven into the ground with the corresponding racking foundation installed on top.
Pictured: More surveying equipment with some piles already in the ground.
Fun fact: Did you know that racking equipment (the casing the solar panels sit in), is customized to each region? So, in South Carolina, our racking equipment is designed to withstand 112 mph winds as South Carolina is occasionally within hurricane zones.
Pictured: An aerial view of the Springfield construction progress in November.
Pictured: An aerial view of the Springfield site in December. What a difference a month makes!
What’s Next?: In January, we will continue working to install the piles and racking at Springfield, as well as completing solar panel installation and electrical work. Similar construction activities will be happening at both our Nimitz and Curie sites, too! Stay tuned in a few weeks for our next construction check-in where we’ll share the latest photos and updates from each of the sites.
To read previous CEC-SCE&G updates on our South Carolina projects, please see these previous posts: