Smithsonian 623.67-KW Solar
Front Royal, Va.               
Award of Merit

Owner: Constellation NewEnergy Inc.
Lead Design Firm: T&M Associates
General Contractor: Conti Enterprises Inc.
Structural Engineer: RBI Solar Inc.
Site Owner: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

With several climate-controlled buildings and animal enclosures, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s more than 3,000-acre site had a large monthly electric bill. This project—a new, 600-kW photovoltaic solar ground-mounted array on 2.5 acres of unusable hillside—now helps offset some of the facility’s energy costs.

The project team for the four-month job met its budget, which the Smithsonian declined to disclose, and its tight schedule by constructing the array in the opposite order of a typical solar project. The team built the interconnections first, not last, to ensure quality without disturbing the facility’s functionality.

The interconnection’s location—a concrete pad with a pad-mounted disconnect and underground cabling that runs to a new overhead electric pole—posed a potential problem. It is close to an enclosure for endangered Chinese red-crested cranes. That required the team to complete the interconnection work before the cranes’ spring mating season.

While the rest of the project was constructed, a gang-operated air break switch was mounted on the overhead electric pole and locked open, for safety reasons. To eliminate some equipment noise, which can put stress on the animals and prevent them from reproducing, the project team used human spotters instead of the equipment’s back-up alarms to make sure that nothing was behind the equipment before the operator backed up.

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