Ground Protection Mats for Aurora Solar Project
Site Access For Aurora Solar
As the first Minnesota solar project to win a technology neutral competitive solicitation, Aurora marks a significant milestone for the renewables industry. The project features a distributed solar design that consists of the installation of 16 small-scale solar PV sites, which deliver a range of benefits, including a reduction in line loss, elimination of transmission costs and geographic diversification of generation assets.
In August, Matrax was contacted by the contractor for temporary road mats to be a solution for construction vehicles to access the site. At this time, the monthly total rainfall was above normal for most places in the state. Many climate observers reported total monthly rainfall that was 2-3 times normal, and on a statewide basis it was the 3rd wettest August in history and wettest since 1980. Severe weather plagued the state during the month on several occasions. The delays caused by the weather were directly related to soft site conditions that hindered contractor’s access to the project. Time sensitive funding based on completion of the project before the end of 2016 was in jeopardy as a result of the delays.
When first contacted about the project, it was obvious that the priority challenge was the ability to respond quickly being that the contractor was already behind schedule due to the severe weather. Matrax was able to mobilize the crews, material, and equipment necessary in less than 5 business days. Once on site, Matrax project management collaborated with the contractor to develop a work plan. The project had 16 individual sites spread out over a 100 mile radius adding to the challenge. Each sites spread out over a 100 mile radius adding to the challenge. Each site was at a different point in the construction process and the need for access was more critical in some areas than others.
Through close coordination with the prime contractor, Matrax deployed resources throughout the project to get it back on track. The project rapidly evolved into 16 smaller jobs requiring a higher level of project management than if it was one contiguous site. The project also required that all materials leaving the site be cleaned to avoid the spread of vegetation to other sites. It was clear that this process would need to be completed in the winter months making cleaning more of a challenge. Matrax developed a cleaning protocol and process that was approved by the Environmental oversight on the project, including heated pressure washers and water tanks. These efforts allowed for continued operations even during below freezing temperatures to meet the demands of the construction schedule.
The Aurora solar project was designed to meet the needs of the local communities boasting a robust vegetation plan that will deliver significant benefits to the local native habitat and help promote pollination and the preservation of farmable soils and land. The Matrax “throw and go” HDPE access mat along with their innovative yet practical approach to installation and removal ensured that the needs of the community were met. The use of temporary access matting was critical to achieving the goals of the project’s vegetation plan as it minimized soil compaction leaving the areas in a more natural state. Furthermore, these less compacted soils are then more conducive to the regrowth of the natural habitat.
Once complete, the project is expected to generate over 210 million kWh annually – equivalent to the energy consumption needs of over 17,000 U.S. households – while avoiding the emission of over 150,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. The power generated from the Aurora solar project will be sold under a bundled, long-term power purchase agreements with Minnesota based utility, Xcel Energy.
Construction of the Aurora solar project required an overall investment of approximately $290 million and the project is expected to be online by the end of 2016. Once complete, Aurora will be the largest solar asset in EGP-NA’s portfolio.