By Bill Frazer
Sr Superintendent for Swinerton Renewable Energy, David Dziema, has been very cooperative in providing information relative to progress in building the local Solar Farm. In trying to make contact with David, we were informed that he was in Arizona on another Swinerton Solar Farm project.
When we contacted him last Friday upon his return to LaFayette, he stated that he was supervising the construction of a smaller solar farm in Arizona. He said that it was a 20 megawatt farm and was a lot less challenging to construct compared to the LaFayette Solar Farm. He stated that the terrain on the Arizona project was relatively flat presenting a lesser challenge to place panels where they would get the maximum amount of sun light. In Arizona, the land clearance contractors do not have to push mud around in rainy weather. The topography at the LaFayette site was a rolling topography presenting a challenge to locate the panels where the panels would receive the most sun light. Placing a panel where the acreage was shaded for a significant part of the day would be a significant loss of potential of energy production.
David also brought us to date on the removal of the timber that had been hindering site preparation progress. According to the recorded deed, AL Solar paid $3,650,00 for 1100 +- acres which included 450 acres of standing timber valued at $900,000. Dudley Lumber Company (which owns the East Alabama saw mill located approximately 2 miles from the harvested timber) assigned 3 local loggers to remove the timber by the first week in May. Local loggers Dodgen, Sanders and Sykes have performed the task prior to the cut off date. The loggers are presently cleaning up some of the scattered timber and are basically through with the harvest.
As the loggers move off of the location, the stump pullers using local contractors and equipment are clearing the logged over acres. Closely behind the stump pullers are the Ironwood Contractors who are clearing and burning the stumps and logging debris.
As we mentioned last week, Swinerton Energy has installed a guard gate for entrance to the ongoing project. They have hired local personnel to provide 24 hour full time security officers.
Swinerton Renewable Energy has almost completed the construction of an all-weather access road to the site of the two power substations. The substations site is now graded and ready for construction of the facility under the Alabama Company high voltage power line. The sub stations convert the low 120 voltage generated by the solar panels into 115,000 volts which is fed into the grid that encompasses all of the eastern part of the nation.
The local perception that the solar power generated would be transmitted directly to the Walmart stores is incorrect. The generated power goes into the grid and is transmitted to whoever is using the power off of the grid at the moment. It is obvious that other sources of power have to be brought on line when the solar panels do not have the sun light.
David states that the project has a current work force of 52. Aerotek, the contractor to supply the work force, will employ approximately 250 more people before the project is completed.
It is interesting to note although most of the workers are out of public view, the company has installed a multitude of portable potties all over the site.