Energy/Industrial Best Project: Triangle T Ranch Solar PV System
Triangle T Ranch Solar PV System
Owner: Hancock Renewable Energy Group
General Contractor/Design Firm: Conti Enterprises Inc.
Civil Engineer: Lars Anderson and Associates
Structural Engineer: Structurology LLC
MEP Engineer: T&M Associates
The 12,000-acre Triangle T Ranch needs large volumes of water to grow its almond and pistachio trees in a dry, sunny climate. The farm’s new 3.9-MW solar array produces the needed electricity to operate its groundwater and irrigation wells and pumps. The project team designed the system to operate at a maximum DC voltage of 1,000 volts, providing 93% of the farm’s electricity needs.
“They have a serious operation going on. At peak time, 300 employees are on this ranch for the harvest,” says John Ervin, project manager at Conti Enterprises Inc. “They knew where we were working at all times. We knew what particular areas they might be working.”
The team used smaller string inverters for easier installation and to minimize power dips on cloudy days. A single-axis tracking system follows the sun and keeps panels facing the optimal direction.
“We can’t have one row of panels shade the other, and they are constantly moving, so the tracker constantly adjusts,” Ervin says.
To keep trucks from getting lost among the farm’s 10- to 15-ft trees, a traffic control subcontractor marked out roads to the sites. The team also worked to limit the dust kicked up by construction, since dust makes the trees more susceptible to fungus or disease, Ervin says.
The potential for workers to experience heat stress was a frequent concern, and contractors halted work and provided cooling areas when conditions became unbearable. At other times, unusually heavy rains caused work stoppages and delays.
The team was working closely with Pacific Gas & Electric to complete transformer upgrades in accordance with PG&E’s regulations. When high winds and rain damaged PG&E’s power grid, utility crews had to stop work and leave the project site to repair fallen power lines for its customers.
“We’re grateful for the open communication and all the work the utility crews were able to get done, considering how drastic the rainfall was last year,” Ervin says.
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