TERRASMART OVERCOMES PV OBSTACLES IN PARADISE

September 15, 2021
September 15, 2021 TerraSmart

TerraSmart is not new to securing PV systems on hurricane-prone Caribbean islands, but at four megawatts the largest solar array in The Bahamas presented unique logistical challenges. Built in partnership with Developer and EPC, Compass Solar Systems, the solar and storage microgrid required strategic planning and creative solutions. Located on the idyllic private island of Chub Cay, the robust ground-mount PV system generates 6,785 MWhrs of energy per year, bringing energy independence to Chub Cay’s private resort and marina.

Partners set sail with Caribbean solar

Exorbitant electricity prices plague Caribbean businesses, which also must struggle with poor reliability and the climate impact of the diesel-powered generation common on the islands. But solar energy typically costs half or even less than conventional sources in the Caribbean. That’s why installing a self-sustaining microgrid combining solar and battery storage made perfect sense for the private resort on Chub Cay.

To accomplish the task, Compass Power assembled a winning team including TerraSmart, Hitachi ABB Power Grids for the batteries, Trina Solar, Yaskawa Solectria Solar, Resitech Industries, S&C along with Asante Energy for engineering and construction management.

Standing up to unique challenges

While the financials made a strong business case for PV, building a system of this scale in the Bahamas presented unique challenges. Above ground, the corrosive marine environment and expected hurricane wind speeds require specialized foundation and racking systems capable of withstanding extreme conditions. Underground, the situation is equally unfriendly, with tough coral and solid limestone soils making traditional pile foundations impossible.

From a logistical standpoint, construction management on such a small, private island meant all building materials, required specialized equipment and manpower had to be chartered in on dedicated vessels, requiring tight coordination between the partners involved and port authorities. Such logistics created additional bureaucratic headaches as each shipment required detailed documentation and specialized management to ensure regulatory restrictions were met.

Standing up to unique challenges

While the financials made a strong business case for PV, building a system of this scale in the Bahamas presented unique challenges. Above ground, the corrosive marine environment and expected hurricane wind speeds require specialized foundation and racking systems capable of withstanding extreme conditions. Underground, the situation is equally unfriendly, with tough coral and solid limestone soils making traditional pile foundations impossible.

From a logistical standpoint, construction management on such a small, private island meant all building materials, required specialized equipment and manpower had to be chartered in on dedicated vessels, requiring tight coordination between the partners involved and port authorities. Such logistics created additional bureaucratic headaches as each shipment required detailed documentation and specialized management to ensure regulatory restrictions were met.

Extreme conditions require expert solutions

Of course, the Chub Cay project needed to be built to last. But with hurricanes inevitable in the Caribbean, durability posed a formidable demand. Compass Solar knew that TerraSmart offered both adaptable mounting systems and tried-and-true expertise in the world’s most arduous terrains and environments to get the job done.

To ensure the system’s reliability, TerraSmart conducted two rounds of geotechnical surveys and testing onsite three months before installation to confirm soil composition. Structural calculations determined that ground mount foundation would require 5,700 lbs of tension capacity, which meant that TerraSmart’s ground screw solution was the only viable option to penetrate the island’s solid oolite limestone. Made with a patented spiral thread, the ground screws require lower embedment depth, which makes for faster and more cost-effective installations. The alternative — driven piles in costly concrete foundations — simply couldn’t compete either structurally or financially.

Combined with Terrasmart’s Glide fixed racking system that integrates seamlessly with the ground screw foundations, the system was customized to tolerate hurricane-force winds up to 185 mph and gusts up to 210 mph. High-strength steel, a low-tilt form factor, and specialized module frame mounting ensured durability. To secure the modules to the racking structures, TerraSmart skillfully engineered six mounting locations, instead of four, to withstand the worst of any storm. TerraSmart racks — which already come with superior corrosion resistance — were customized for increased galvanization (g235 vs. the standard g90 treatment) to sustain the corrosive marine climate.

Product suitability is not the only reason Compass Solar chose TerraSmart to execute this milestone project. With its own survey, drilling, and installation crews — as well as its own specialized equipment — TerraSmart offers unique expertise building systems in the toughest conditions to generate confidence in their ability to execute flawlessly.

TerraSmart shipped everything needed for the installation, including one of its cutting-edge rock drills, testing equipment, a specialized truck, customized tools, and all required materials. After receiving and inspecting the equipment, a team of expert installers oversaw the work and trained the Bahamian workforce to do much of the installation work.

Successful solar in paradise

The most idyllic locations can be the most difficult for solar installations but TerraSmart’s unique product and project experience makes solar possible anywhere.

Despite being the largest solar array in The Bahamas and one of the largest grid-forming systems, Chub Cay renewable microgrid was built and commissioned without delays in eight months. While creating significant climate benefits, this landmark installation will save millions of dollars in fuel for the private resort and its marina. Additionally, Compass Power designed a lightning protection system, covering the entire array. And with “Solar Weathering the Storm” best practices and TerraSmart ground screws drilled in the natural limestone, it will stand up to anything Mother Nature throws at it.

, , , , , , , ,
Contact

Get Connected

We welcome you to contact us for more information
about any of our products or services.

Let’s Talk About Your Project

Expedite your next ground mount project by reducing site preparation time with a rack that accommodates steep slopes.

Challenging Site?

We have a solution for tough soils that controls project risks and can excel where others do not.

Discuss Your Needs

We provide maximum value products at minimum cost while delivering quality solutions.

(239) 362-0211

Contact