Check out TerraSmart’s new fleet of solar site-mapping drones

TerraSmart keeps on churning out futuristic site mapping technology for the solar industry that focuses on automation and speed. First was this automated surveying robot (which we will have more on in our Jan/Feb issue), and now the company is hyping up its new FAA-certified High Precision Aerial Site Mapping (HPASM) service.

Terrasmart drone solar site map

TerraSmart’s High Precision Aerial Site Mapping drone.

TerraSmart says the HPASM is able to cover 50-80 acres per each hour of flight time, allowing a site of 5 MW to be completely mapped with the data processed in only 48 hours. HPASM identifies trouble spots before sites are cleared, mitigating problems early to better manage risks and contain costs.

Possible benefits of this service include:

• Speeding project velocity
• Increasing accuracy and eliminating human error
• Delivering a complete site topography very early in construction to simplify pre-engineering
• Capturing aerial photography to produce orthomosaics & 3D models with an absolute accuracy down to 1 inch

“Our new High Precision Aerial Site Mapping service allows TerraSmart to complete the topographic map with phenomenal quality and accuracy,” says Ryan Reid, TerraSmart CEO. “Greater efficiency in designing systems for our clients allows us to increase project velocity so that systems get on-line to generate profits faster.”

You can get more info on TerraSmart’s drone technology here.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder Project of The Year Winner: Moapa Southern Paiute Solar

Moapa Southern Paiute Solar

Category: Ground-Mount (utility-scale)
Moapa, Nev. | 353 MW


You may remember this project first appearing in our Sept./Oct. issue in which we highlighted the importance of the ground screws in completing the project. It was entered into the Project of the Year awards shortly thereafter and received the most votes in the utility-scale category. So, let’s get reacquainted with it, shall we?

Located 45 minutes northeast of Las Vegas is the Moapa Indian Reservation and tribal members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes are motivated to make better, more sustainable use of their available land. As the Dakota Access Pipeline debacle has revealed, the energy sector doesn’t always treat tribal lands with much respect, and the Moapa Band of Paiutes tribal members have fought for years to close a nearby coal-burning power plant that releases coal ash into their land and could very likely be causing a rise in asthma and other health issues.

Pursuing a renewable energy future here is beneficial beyond economic impact because reliable solar energy that closes this coal plant could change lives.

ttTaming with a screw

The Moapa land is both sacred and severe. The biggest challenge for installing a massive solar array here comes from a soil combination fused together by limestone called caliche, which is typically found in South America.

Encountering a 12- to 24-in. layer of caliche in the United States was an unexpected twist and, to compound the issue, there was about 8 to 12 in. of light sand. This combination was an issue for both typical driven piles and standard surveying methods, and according to project developer Moapa Southern Paiute Solar LLC (a subsidiary of First Solar Electric LLC) both were overcome with the help of TerraSmart solutions.

We highlighted the value of the 128,000 ground screws in Sept./Oct. for being a cost-effective solution that accelerated the installation of the fixed-tilt mounting sysem that supports 3,209,091 modules on 2,000 acres in tough caliche terra.

Because of the loose sand and the requirement to leave as much sacred land unharmed as possible, accuracy was important when pinpointing pile location. So, instead of the standard surveying method of staking points, TerraSmart’s software engineers developed a proprietary software to survey/drill at the project site. This software loaded the rock-drill machines with the coordinates to locate foundation points, and drilling was completed without disturbing unnecessary land and saving money for the developers.

“We were pleased with how respectful the company was of the Moapa land and people,” Moapa Solar stated. “It was unusual for companies to take so much care not to disturb the sacred spaces around the array.”

Check out the other 2016 Project of the Year Winners

20160518-2016-05-18-16.07Power to the people

The project used First Solar’s advanced photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar modules and is predicted to generate enough clean solar energy to serve approximately 100,000 homes per year, displacing approximately 178,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually — the equivalent of taking about 34,000 cars off the road. It will also include an onsite substation and a new 5.5-mile 500-kV transmission line that will connect to the existing Crystal Substation serving energy users in California. Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project has a power-purchase agreement (PPA) with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to deliver clean, solar energy for 25 years.

In the end, the project was delivered on time and on budget and became the first utility-scale solar plant on U.S. tribal lands.

— Solar Builder magazine

Survey your next solar site with this autonomous robot from TerraSmart #SPI

APSR robot survey Terrasmart

TerraSmart may have revolutionized solar site surveying at Solar Power International this year, introducing a fully autonomous robot, called the Autonomous Precision Survey Rover (APSR), that will handle survey stake-out functions (booth 2145).

“Our main goal is to increase the velocity and accuracy with which we survey. A typical survey crew can locate up to 200 points per day, but with ASPR we can do over 1,300 points a day,” says TerraSmart Systems Design Manager Chase Anderson. “We are excited to bring NASA space rover technology to the world of photovoltaic construction. It eliminates human error, saves time, and cuts project construction costs for our clients.”

A larger model than the one at SPI will be introduced in Q1 of 2017 that adds drilling capabilities to the autonomous survey technology. The company has plans to deploy three ASPRs on a 42 megawatt site located in Shoreham, NY in mid-October.

RELATED: How TerraSmart’s new racking-plus-ground-screw solution reduces costs 

APSR features include:

– APSR is powered with a gas/electric hybrid drive system, allowing it to run 24/7 if required
– Designed for all-terrain use with “slope awareness” for undulating sites, APSR includes a geometric passive articulation suspension system, 24-inch tires and a 10-inch ground clearance
– APSR travels at a maximum speed of 11 mph with a maximum incline of 45 degrees
– Version two of APSR, coming in the first quarter of 2017, will be able to survey and drill holes with a two-inch diameter and a maximum depth of 20 feet within a half-inch tolerance
– APSR operates using line-of-sight wireless control, as well as Real Time Kinematics (RTK) GPS that increases its precision, accuracy, and speed

“Over the years, we have partnered with some of the most advanced survey equipment and software companies to design and deploy proprietary surveying tools that reduce installation time for solar ground mount systems. Today, with our U.S. exclusive launch of the ASPR, we continue to innovate with the use of RTK GPS technology and other proprietary software developed in-house,” says Ryan Reid, TerraSmart CEO.

How does it work?

Autonomous robots are programmed by skilled operators and APSR is no exception. The engineering team loads coordinate files onto an Android tablet, making them accessible to the APSR operator to create “missions” for each project site. APSR’s operator can prioritize work by site conditions and can even save and replay missions at any time. Once the operator provides the commands, APSR will survey each programmed location.

Safety comes first with APSR. A four-level safety system is built into the autonomous vehicle that can stop the rover in its tracks up to a half-mile away. The operator can also hit a kill switch on his belt; there is a power-down command on the companion Android tablet; and APSR shuts itself down if it tips over or if it travels outside of its operating area.

— Solar Builder magazine

SPI Preview: Four fixed-tilt mounting products to see

New RBI Solar ground-mount uses less steel

New RBI Solar ground-mount uses less steel
RBI Solar’s next generation ground-mount solution will be available for viewing and demonstrations at SPI 2016 (booth 811). This utility-scale mounting system is specifically designed to make solar installation more affordable and includes a wide selection of component parts that bear loads while using less steel. Executives, technical specialists, engineers and sales representatives from RBI Solar will be on hand to answer questions about any of their solar mounting solutions, including ground mounts, roof mounts, carports and landfill solutions.

TerraSmart’s TF2 system offers big reduction in labor

TerraSmart’s TF2 system offers big reduction in labor
TF2 is the next generation fixed-tilt ground-mount racking solution brought to you by the turnkey solar ground mount company, TerraSmart (booth 2145). The new TF2 racking system is based on the company’s widely deployed and versatile TerraSmart ground screw foundation. Leveraging the benefits of the proprietary ground screw foundation to work with any soil condition, TerraSmart focused on the installation process to ensure TF2 offered large efficiencies for in-field teams. All of these benefits create a 30 percent reduction of installation man-hours, saving time on every project. More on TerraSmart here.

New Ballast Ground Mount to use Super Purlin

New Ballast Ground Mount to use Super Purlin
Powers Solar Frames (booth 2545) is producing its second generation Ballast Ground Mount system, which incorporates a 24-in.-wide ballast box that can be ordered in lengths from 6 to 12 ft, depending on wind, snow and other parameters. As with Powers Solar Frames’ other products, the Ballast Ground Mount incorporates the patented Super Purlin, which reduces conventional purlin usage by as much as 42 percent, speeds installation and reduces labor costs.

Solar FlexRack to display fixed-tilt, CIP, tracker systems

Solar FlexRack to display fixed-tilt, CIP, tracker systems

Solar FlexRack (booth 923) is one of those companies with a new tracker solution — its TDP Turnkey Tracker — along with its flagship Series G3-X fixed-tilt ground-mount with self-squaring design for efficient module population. Its renowned field services team will be on hand to discuss the company’s full suite of turnkey services that include: geotechnical services, layout, design, engineering, installation, commissioning and support. Also on display will be the Series B Cast-in-Place ground-mount. This ballasted racking solution is custom designed for durability and ease of installation.

Find the rest of our SPI previews/coverage here.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fueling an Indy car with solar energy (kind of)

solar indycar

Image via TerraSmart website.

OK, so Indycar driver Stefan Wilson isn’t literally fueling his vehicle with solar energy, but Wilson’s enthusiasm for clean energy inspired him to launch a #THINKSOLAR campaign to bring about ecological awareness inside the racing world. Promoting reduced levels of CO2 at an Indycar race might seem an odd juxtaposition, but that is perhaps precisely the place for a message like Wilson’s to stand out and make an impact.

We learned about Wilson’s passion from this great post on the TerraSmart website:

The Indy 500 has served as an innovation showcase for the automotive industry for decades, rolling out advances like turbo-charging into mainstream motor vehicles and more. But, times are changing and racing is too. Stefan believes it’s time to see solar-powered paddocks, pit lanes and tech hubs. With gasoline generators currently powering nearly every garage on the track, Stefan’s desire to revolutionize the sport with clean energy solutions could not be more timely as solar power is becoming more accessible every day.

I recommend heading to their site to check out the full story. The guy has a lot of great ideas for spreading the solar gospel in this fossil fuel world.

— Solar Builder magazine