Solar installation overcomes the challenge of clay

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016 | Supplied by: NEXTracker Inc

Solar installation overcomes the challenge of clay

Deployed on the wide open plains of northern NSW, in a region with high irradiance, NX Horizon’s expansive arc harvests the solar potential of Australia. The Moree Solar Farm combines sun availability and powerful tracking technology with a reduced total cost of ownership, making the farm a good example of a PV model project.

Solar array design and installation are some of the most costly components of tracker installation. The heavy, cracked clay found in the floodplains of Australia’s Mehi River requires tailor-made foundations to address the clay’s extremes of expansion and contraction. When developer FRV and EPC contractor Elecnor were faced with these challenges, they turned to NEXTracker.

NEXTracker’s engineering team partnered with Elecnor and pier manufacturer Blade Pile to deliver the Moree Solar Farm’s solar pier foundation. Blade Pile’s geodynamic design addresses the challenges posed by shifting clay, stabilising the tracker foundations as the clay sets around the piers. Furthermore, NEXTracker’s NX Horizon solar tracker has a mechanically balanced design and optimised components that use less steel and require up to 33% fewer piers; thus, the number of these vital components was greatly reduced.

With no row linkages to further complicate the anchoring of the foundations, NX Horizon’s independent row architecture and long span between piers resulted in an agile mechanical system that withstands the challenges posed by shifting clay. The streamlined design empowered Elecnor to overcome the challenges of working with dynamic soil, helping the company to deploy Australia’s largest solar tracking system in difficult terrain.

NEXTracker’s system is said to have an ±8° advantage over the competition, allowing for a 120° tracking span that fully soaks in the 275 W/m2 of solar irradiance beaming down on this desert region. These optimisations result in an efficient drive system that effortlessly powers an entire row. In projects of this size, the small details translate into large savings.

The Moree Solar Farm, outfitted with NEXTracker’s robust technology, will supply clean electricity to the region, generating the equivalent electricity to power 15,000 homes and avoiding 95,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The clean power plant will also help the region save approximately 165,000 ML of clean drinking water, compared to the operation of a coal-fired power station.

“NEXTracker’s NX Horizon technology is an excellent tracker solution for this challenging project,” said Elecnor Project Manager Pedro Fernandez. “The company has developed a unique foundation solution that addresses the challenging soil conditions found at this project site in Australia. This solution minimises site grading and grounding requirements and simplifies design, installation and maintenance.”

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