Moretrench “Paves the Way” for Florida’s Newest Solar Farms

March 25, 2016

Moretrench’s Tampa, FL office is well on the way to completing nearly 45 miles of access roads and drainage culverts for new solar farms in De Soto, Charlotte and Manatee Counties.  Together, the three farms will produce close to 225 MW of electricity, nearly tripling Florida Power & Light’s current solar energy capacity.  Moretrench was consulted by the owner during the design stage and invited to submit value engineering  and constructability ideas, some of which were incorporated into the design and work program.

Approximately 50 site personnel  were mobilized with less than two weeks’ notice for the project’s fast track start-up.  “This is the single largest roadworks project we’ve ever undertaken,” notes Tampa Estimator/Project Manager Nick Haddon.  “Roadwork at all three sites is running concurrently and we have a total of five crews in the field.”  Upon completion expected in mid-summer, crews will have  moved 275,000 cubic yards of earth, placed 150,000 tons of shell rock and nearly 1,000,000 square feet of stabilization fabric, installed 110,000 liner feet of silt fence/erosion control, and constructed pads for three  separate substations and three sets of parking/laydown areas.

With hundreds of miles of electrical cabling, hundreds of thousands of support posts, racking and photovoltaic panel installation by other trades underway in close proximity to the roadwork crews, close cooperation by all parties is high priority to keep the work safe and on schedule.  The project sites are also close to environmentally sensitive areas, including Charlotte County’s Babcock Ranch Preserve, meaning heightened awareness at all times.

Ground Penetrating Radar and soft dig techniques were used to accurately locate a 36-inch diameter active natural gas pipeline before any excavation in that area.  Safe construction of the roadways under numerous high voltage power mains is being aided by 3-D laser scanning to measure the power lines in place and model safe dumping areas.

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3-D laser scanning was used to model exact details of numerous overhead high voltage lines.

The roadworks are also being aided by technology that in the past had typically only been employed on DOT roadway projects but in recent years has begun to find application in less critical grading projects as it increases accuracy and productivity while decreasing survey costs. “Our  excavators and graders are fitted with on-board 3-D computers hooked into the machine’s hydraulics,” says Haddon.  “Data upload and download between the office and the field is transmitted via satellite and cellular tower directly to the on-board computer screen.  This ensures accuracy of material cut and fill, makes operations more productive, and minimizes the need for ground survey.”  In fact, in the final grade operations, the system has the capability to automatically control the excavator/grader blades for  final grading while the operator retains control of forward and reverse movement, making for a very smooth and efficient operation altogether.

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Roadwork was conducted concurrent with other trades installing the solar panels and electrical cables.

The roadway work is on track for meeting The Tampa office’s  safety goal of zero recordables, completion within the schedule and within budget.  The solar farms due to go into service before the end of the year.