Rocky Soil Poses No Problem for Massachusetts Solar Farm

August 18, 2016
Posted in News
August 18, 2016 TerraSmart

Located on the North Shore of Massachusetts, Beverly boasts of its rocky, ragged coastline to draw visitors to the city of 40,664. It also earns its name as the “Garden City” with its more than 20 parks.

In other words, residents care deeply about the environment, so when local businessman Stanley Bialek wanted to build a $6 million, 2.7-megawatt Massachusetts solar farm on eight acres of grassy land next to Birch Plains Park, the residents were excited. After all, their experience with the 100-killowatt system next to the high school had been a great success.

According to the plan for the Cabot Beverly Solar Farm, developer Borrego Solar Systems would install the panels on the sloping field, 20 Yingli Solar panels on each of 400 racks, for a total of 8,388 panels. But there were two tricky problems the developer would have to navigate.

First, Bialek’s Massachusetts solar farm site rested on some of the rockiest soil in the city. Most racking companies design their products based on the often-spurious assumption that the array will be constructed on compliant, flat ground. To accommodate rocky soils, however, the developer has to employ refusal piles that require drilling extra holes and pouring expensive concrete to hold everything in place.

Secondly, the ground sloped 30 feet from grade, providing a separate set of headaches for developers. Most standard installation machinery isn’t designed to work on severe slopes, which can put workers in danger by forcing them to work at unnatural angles and endure physical punishment from drilling new holes. The concerns under such conditions can disrupt construction schedules and run the risk of frustrating the project’s financiers.

Where would the developer find a racking system that could penetrate Beverly’s rocky soil without causing construction delays, while withstanding the famously harsh New England winters? It’s a question that often leaves developers scrambling to find solutions that won’t result in longer install schedules or budget increases.

After extensive research into available racking solutions, Borrego chose TerraSmart because of its reputation for solving rocky-soil and sloping problems with minimal disruption — if any — to the construction schedule. TerraSmart’s innovative ground screws eliminate the need for refusal piles and expensive concrete because they easily penetrate even the toughest soil conditions, keeping construction crews on time and on budget.

In all, the developer installed 1,180 TerraSmart ground screws which, combined with its revolutionary racking system, hold the panels in place.

“We love working with TerraSmart because we know they will do what they say they’re going to do,” says Brian Morrison, director of engineering for Borrego. “They work with you on all the challenges they come across on every site — and these sites are never easy. But working with TerraSmart? They make it easy.”

Thanks to the close working relationship between TerraSmart and Borrego, the Massachusetts solar farm was commissioned on schedule and is featured as one of the “Major Solar Projects in the United States” by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in its annual report.

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