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Solar Farm Civil Engineering Services

Planning for success on your utility-scale solar farm

When designing large-scale ground mounted solar energy facilities, we leverage our full range of civil engineering services to ensure that every goal is met along the way. Blue Oak Energy’s civil team is solar-specific, known for the most streamlined and efficient grading and drainage designs. Our cohesive multi-disciplinary engineering services focused specifically on photovoltaic systems means we have the expertise to efficiently design PV systems and the associated site mitigations. This translates into a cost effective hydrology and water retention approach, and a balanced earthwork design. We carefully balance the expectations in quality and cost while also ensuring that the final product satisfies the highest standards of professional compliance and integration with geological, community, and environmental features. Read on for an in-depth look at our scope of civil engineering services and best practices.

Initial Preparation:

When it comes to planning a site for a solar utility project, Blue Oak Energy does not believe in cutting corners. We understand that the money invested in the initial stages can go a long way towards a facility’s successful operation during its 30-year lifespan. The initial planning process requires a great deal of negotiation with local jurisdictions, utility companies, and governing agencies. Our team works through the terms of Conditional Use Permits (CUPs), Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), and Interconnection Agreements (IAs) while also discussing and making determinations on such issues as: topography and boundary surveys, grading, stormwater mitigation, retention features, fire suppression planning, options for mounting systems, and the need for an Operations and Maintenance building. We try to bring as much flexibility as we can to the negotiation process to guard against unforeseen changes in property, interconnection, and technology that might occur down the road.

Surveys, Studies, and Mapping

As part of the planning process, Blue Oak Energy will conduct a hydrology study with stormwater and flood calculations, and provide a review of the owner-supplied project studies, requesting additional data as necessary. We will assess the status of the topographic, boundary, and geotechnical data and determine what is sufficient for design and what still needs to be conducted for project success. Blue Oak Energy can assist in managing any sub consultants necessary for project completion, as well as pick up where developers left off in terms of preliminary engineering and project study creation. Any way the client would like to handle it, Blue Oak Energy will accommodate and assist along the way.

Civil Design:

Our civil design provides the underlying structure of systems within which solar power facilities can exist and operate. Incorporating grading and storm water mitigation constraints early on with the PV array layout team allows us to optimize motor blocks and integrate the design as a whole. We have a track record of balancing any earthwork quantities on-site, efficiently designing the on-site access roads and assisting with the design choices that help minimize construction costs. We have extensive experience with solar racking and tracking products and we foster continual product vendor dialogue to engineer a clean, sensible, and cost effective solar facility. We will always balance and minimize the amount of land disturbance to solar farms, because each and every environment has unique sensitivities. Final construction drawings and documentation will detail the entire civil infrastructure, including the design of project and access roads, the laydown area for the PV array, design and layout of any permanent fencing and PV racking systems, site grading, existing easements, and locations of inverter skid foundations. Once agreements and permits are in place, Blue Oak Energy provides a csv.file of locations where civil elements will take place, and an extensive civil design package that will address civil engineering aspects of the project. We utilize Civil 3D software which incorporates the racking foundations, the proposed ground surface and a top-of-pole elevation to ensure constructability is fully achieved. During the civil design stages leading into construction, we will comply with the regional water and air quality control board standards. Erosion and sedimentation control plans will be carefully crafted to meet the guidelines by the governing agencies.

Stormwater Prevention Plan:

Blue Oak Energy considers the SWPPP a necessary and sound environmental practice. SWPPPs are required for developments that disturb an acre or more of soil, which means that any solar project expected to generate 200 kilowatts or more will require one of these plans. The SWPPP is a comprehensive document, containing Best Management Practices (BMPs) for protecting the site from erosion and sedimentation. Use of silt fences, gravel entrances, and wash-out pits are some of the measures typically taken to protect adjacent sites from polluted stormwater and sediment transport. The EPA and local quality control boards are the governing bodies for the SWPPP process and we ensure thoughtful compliance across the United States.

Structural Design:

Blue Oak Energy focuses on the PV system’s structural design in conjunction with the civil site development design. We ensure these portions of the project are cohesive and well balanced in order to ensure efficiency when it comes to pile design vs. grading design. Our engineering team will design the structural pile foundations, inverter pads, and transformer pads, based on geotechnical parameters, the solar panel manufacturer’s specified design requirements, and all governing codes.

Blue Oak Energy structural engineers are experts when dealing with custom structural engineering concerns. Whether designing a foundation with difficult or corrosive soils, designs subject to FEMA flood zones and sitting water, or rooftops with limited live loading availability, Blue Oak has structural engineering covered for your solar project.

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