Category: Community Solar
Special Design Requirements in the Northeast
By Melanie Garza
APA Solar Racking
As the Northeast is set to explode with solar installations over the next several years, this part of the country has unique and difficult terrain making PV installation more complex than other regions. The Northeast poses a shortened construction season with deep frost lines, high topography and rock. Standard pile foundations prove difficult with deeper embedment depths, high refusals and special engineering. Budgets can be significantly impacted due to installation troubles.
Areas of flat land with good soil are unfortunately not the norm in the northeast. The Appalachian Mountains stretch from Maine down to Alabama encompassing multiple ranges across ME, NH, VT, NY and PA. States along the coast line are known for windswept land and rugged coastal bluffs with extremely rock conditions.
Inaccurate planning and misunderstanding of the difficult environment often leads to excessive cost overruns. A design deficiency in the foundation can cause substantial installation problems and skyrocketing change orders. A variety of foundations and special installation equipment should be considered including ground screws, helicals, piles and ballasts.
It is critically important to work with the customer in the actual design of the project to mitigate any construction related problems before breaking ground. Changes on paper are easier and more cost-effective than after the installation has begun.
Once installation begins, customers often demand a quick installation on a fast track timeline. Given the expected growth and shortage of available installers, schedules will be impacted. Racking manufacturers realize the situation and are quickly trying to reduce installation time through design modifications.
Cost overruns can also be attributed to unpredictable weather conditions, lack of knowledge in local regulations, lack of experience in project location, and equipment shortage.
In this presentation, attendees will learn the various foundations available in the solar industry and understand the design requirements best suited for unique soil conditions. Furthermore, construction best practices will be addressed to better control costs and improve installation time.
Although extreme weather or forces beyond human control can impact budgets, in most cases, a project’s overrun is a result of inaccurate analysis or planning before building even starts.
Melanie Garza– Director of Business Development, AP Alternatives