Value-Engineering Boosts Returns for Utility-Scale Solar Projects

By March 16, 2017 FeaturedNews
Utility-Scale Solar Projects

Project-Specific Solutions Accelerate Profits for Utility-Scale Solar Projects –

We’ve all heard the news about U.S. solar’s stellar 2016 performance, installing 14.8 gigawatts (GWs) of new solar capacity. Out of all the segments of solar, utility-scale PV grew the most, topping out at 10 GWs and stealing the show with more new capacity in 2016 than the entire solar market added in 2015. That’s massive!

To stay ahead in today’s uber-competitive utility space, EPCs and developers are squeezing cost from balance of system (BOS) components, including solar racking, to safeguard margins and win more bids.

As solar racking and mounting companies work toward lower pricing – and as profit margins become tighter – companies are adapting in various ways. Some focus on innovation and R&D to optimize their product and reduce costs, while others do the opposite by cutting corners to protect the bottom line.

At TerraSmart, we believe a winning formula for solar construction profitability requires going beyond the simple cost of parts. Instead, we create value at each phase of our turnkey process. With an eye on quality and performance, we value-engineer each system to give our customers the highest return on their solar projects.

Utility-Scale Solar ProjectsValue-Engineering Streamlines Installation to Generate Revenue Quicker

TerraSmart’s engineering and design teams have years of experience tailoring high-quality ground-mount solutions that align each project’s unique characteristics into a cohesive, cost-effective process.

With each site, TerraSmart’s expert geotechnical, structural, mechanical and civil engineers custom-design solutions for the highest project returns. Assessing factors such as topography, location, seasonality, and more, TerraSmart’s team adapts proven solutions that deliver the highest energy yield, regardless of the terrain.

Efficient Design Makes Complex Projects Simple

Making project design simple with innovation and sophisticated tools is what we do best. Our expert in-house teams use the most advanced methods to value-engineer every aspect of each projects unique site layout.

TerraSmart’s sophisticated procedures evaluate foundations in the field to establish site-specific capacities. The engineering team analyzes test results to provide reliable yet economical foundations best suited for the racking structure on every site.

  • Advanced capacity testing helps assess geotechnical conditions and detect the most reliable and cost-effective foundation option
  • Sophisticated pull-out testing uses the latest mechanical load software that complies with ASTM standards so that all foundations pass third-party reviews on the first presentation

And in an industry where every penny counts, TerraSmart engineers make sure site-specific characteristics such as codes, design regulations and soil composition are assessed with cost in mind, every time.

Time-saving code compliance is also integral to all aspects of our system design. Our structural plans and calculations are stamped in every state so that permit submissions are hassle-free to get systems online quick.

Innovative Technologies Slash Costs

TerraSmart doesn’t just value-engineer each site for peak production. Autonomous technology forms a critical part of our arsenal of cost-containment tactics, boosting unparalleled accuracy and productivity to help deliver on our mission of “Faster, Smarter, Better” solar.

Our Autonomous Precision Survey Rover (APSR) made a splash last year as the first rover to launch in the U.S. solar industry. Bringing space technology to the world of PV construction means that TerraSmart eliminates human error, saves time, and cuts project construction costs.

APSR triples survey speed and accuracy. By automating the process, a rover can accurately survey and stake over 1,300 points in a typical work day, during which human surveyors average only 300 points. Because the APSR stakes a point only when all RTK-GPS sensors are at the right location and within tolerance, design reliability is greatly increased. Accelerated project velocity and accuracy means reduced cost and time savings.

TerraSmart’s latest fleet of high-precision aerial site mapping drones (HPASM) add even more heft to its engineering muscle.  HPASM uses autonomous tech to generate topographical data with unprecedented accuracy, boosting precision and speed while lowering PV construction costs.

These flying drones can map, process images and develop a detailed site topography for a 5 MW project in only 48 hours instead of the days and weeks involved using conventional methods.

TerraSmart constantly innovates with value-added technologies, providing greater system design efficiency to bring projects online sooner.

Moapa Southern Paiute Solar

Landmark Projects Demonstrate Custom Engineering at Work

When the Moapa Band of Paiutes considered adding solar to their renewable energy portfolio, preserving ancestral tribal land was paramount to the project’s success. To minimize impact on sacred spaces while maximizing the plant’s energy production, developers turned to TerraSmart and its team of expert designers.

Loose sand and a desire to leave as much land untouched as possible made pile location accuracy critical. Instead of using the industry standard of staking points, TerraSmart’s engineers developed proprietary software to survey and drill ground screws on the project site. Rock-drill machines used the software to pre-load coordinates for foundation points, allowing drilling to take place efficiently, while simultaneously reducing costs and leaving more land undisturbed.

Ultimately, TerraSmart won SolarBuilder’s “utility project of the year” in the ground-mount utility-scale category for its success in meeting deadlines while overcoming terrain challenges for the Moapa Band of Paiutes. That’s no small feat considering the 353 MW, fixed-tilt Nevada project was the first and the largest utility-scale solar plant built on U.S. tribal lands.

True Turnkey Installation Yields Optimal Results on Every Build

Even with the best geotechnical reports, solar ground-mount projects can encounter unforeseen conditions. To solve tough terrain challenges on-site without slowing or even halting construction, compromising quality, or inflating budgets, EPCs and solar developers turn to true turnkey racking partners who offer flexible products and customizable solutions.

TerraSmart’s turnkey installation service allows control over all value-drivers from tip to tail to deliver optimal results on every build. Dedicated project managers assure seamless collaboration with designers and engineers offering around-the-clock responsiveness to keep projects running smoothly and on target.

From conceptual design through commissioning, TerraSmart offers EPCs and developers value-engineered ground mount solutions that yield high-performing, quality-builds every-time.

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