UTILIZING SOLAR POWER AS A RENEWABLE ENERGY SOLUTION REDUCES UTILITY COSTS AND HELPS REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT.
Stellar Energy, a national provider of commercial solar systems, has completed several complex solar power projects for quarry and mining facilities. The company is currently installing its fourth large commercial-scale solar system into an active mining operation.
Industrial businesses such as rock quarries and mining operations demand large amounts of energy to power their operations. Utilizing solar power as a renewable energy solution reduces their utility costs and helps reduce carbon footprint. Stellar Energy has been successful in engineering and installing large, ground-mounted solar installations within the active mining areas of several clients throughout the western U.S.
In particular, the company helped one client position an array on the sunny side of a steep mountainside, which was otherwise unusable space. The installation required advanced engineering, diligent safety protocols and project management and careful product selection.
“Succeeding in the very specialized market of mining and quarries was not Stellar Energy’s original intention,” said Ted Walsh, vice president of sales and marketing. In 2007, Stellar was first selected to engineer, design and construct a 1.5 megawatt (MW) solar power plant for a gold mine in Nevada. When the system was activated, it was one of the largest solar facilities in the western U.S., utilizing the most advanced technology of the time, and deployed in the extreme terrain and climate of western Nevada.
Design and Engineering
Stellar Energy overcame significant design and engineering challenges both structurally and electrically to deploy the system, including obtaining certification from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). This experience and expertise became increasingly valuable as other mines and quarries began to investigate solar to reduce their operating costs.
The mountainside quarry project in Northern California followed, and then a Fortune 500 company approached Stellar Energy about a large sand mine supporting their bottle making operation. From project development to design and engineering to project management to operation and maintenance – the teams at Stellar Energy all had to develop talent and resources to deliver as promised to this new type of client.
“Mines and quarries require a tremendous amount of electricity to power their facilities and their location often presents a challenging build environment,” said Michael Mittleman, president of Stellar Energy. “Installing solar on quarries and mining facilities requires complex design and engineering solutions, exacting project management, and very careful planning. Unlike many competing solar companies that outsource those high value engineering skills or focus only on cookie-cutter opportunities, we have a team of specialists at Stellar Energy that thrive on challenges.”
The quarry operation that received the solar panels was BoDean Co.’s Mark West Quarry in Santa Rosa, Calif. The project posed many challenges including design and engineering, solar analysis, and project implementation.
Stellar Energy needed to design a racking system that would work a reclaimed hillside with very steep slopes, plan for interconnection into three separate meters, and isolate a solution to keep the modules clean in a working quarry.
Solar analysts had to come up with an energy model to maximize the benefits for the quarry on each of the three meters and work on all the varying slopes and orientations. Project managers had the additional challenge of building in a very difficult environment during heavy winter rains to ensure that the project would begin operating in spring of 2011.
The solar analysts decided to break up the arrays into three groups with three orientations where each orientation produces power for each coinciding meter. Design and engineering used Terrafix ground screws to attach the racking to the hillside because of the loose soil conditions and the ability with Terrafix to accurately locate the earth screws.
Project managers worked with four specialty sub-contractors during the wet winter months and managed to pull all of the pieces together without any injuries, and exceptional quality. Heliotex provided the automated panel cleaning system that turns on at scheduled intervals when atmospheric conditions are ideal.
Having solar power produced onsite has many benefits. This quarry is located on the outskirts of PG&E distribution lines and it will save 30 percent more energy than what is actually produced because the utility doesn’t have to distribute this power on their grid. In simple terms, this system could power 160 average-sized California homes. The amount of CO2 saved from going into our atmosphere compared to traditional power generation methods is equivalent to taking 153 cars off the road each year.
“This solar energy system fits right in with our desire to be an eco-efficient company,” said Bill Williams, BoDean general manager. “We want to do things efficiently for financial reasons, but we also want to do it in an environmentally responsible way. Sometimes those things go hand in hand.”
The Solar System
- 809 Kilowatts (kW) DC.
- 3,444 Yingli solar modules.
- Terrafix racking and earth screw foundation.
- 5 Satcon Inverters.
- Internet-based monitoring.
For more information on solar power, go to www.stellarenergy.com.