Executive Summary

Overcome Winter Hazards with Ground Screws vs. Piles

As more photovoltaic projects are developed in areas subject to deep freezes, there is growing concern about potential damage caused by frost heave and the subsequent frost jacking of embedded foundation structures.

Over time, repeated heaves and thaws can warp racking systems, cause connection failures, break PV module glass, disrupt electrical terminations, and severely shorten a solar plant’s lifespan. Such damage severely impacts O&M budgets and erodes the long-term Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) performance of an asset.

Proper design from the outset to counter the stresses of frost heave, however, can mitigate and even prevent such damage in the first place. 

In addition to explaining the types of soils and conditions most likely to experience frost heave, this paper outlines how to determine the recommended design parameters for a given site and how to calculate potential loads for various frost depths. 

While potential strategies and mitigation measures for using traditional driven piles are discussed, it becomes clear that ground screws are the superior solution for counteracting the forces of frost heave. 

TerraSmart’s proprietary technology — developed over the course of a decade of in-field experience embedding over 1.2 million ground screws — provides reliable, efficient installation that remains rock steady in the world’s deepest frost zones. 

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