By Bill Frazer
I continue to be amazed at the activities carried out on the local Solar Farm. The different people and mechanical skills required for the construction of this gigantic environmental project is beyond anything that I have had the privilege to report on.
There is an estimated 100+ machines working on the project ranging from golf carts for supervisors to 30 ton earth moving machines. To fuel, service, maintain and report all these mechanical machines require a host of skilled personnel. Some of the electronic controlled machines such as the drills that bore under the creeks and roads, require sophisticated service personnel.
Imagine the task of maintaining daily time cards and writing weekly checks for approximately 250 people employed on the laboring force. The administrative personnel has to be sure that all local, state and federal employment rules must be adhered to such as overtime, minimum wage, social security and any other required payroll deduction.
Safety is paramount on the LaFayette Solar Farm. No one is allowed on the premises without a hard hat and safety vest. At points where there are entrances without a guard on duty, cameras are set up to monitor all the visitors and employees that enter and leave the premises.
All packaging and waste products are recycled. There are metal canister set throughout the solar site that allow the waste to be sorted. The wood, cardboard and metal waste are placed in designated canisters for removal by the recycling contractor.
Encountering layers of rock under the surface of the farm continues to be a problem especially in drilling under the streams and roads. It is known to all the locals that there is a formation of rock just under the soil surface that runs a eastern route from western Alabama counties through Chambers and on into GA. Mark Langley told me that when he built his new house west of Lanett on county road 81, he had to build the house on a rock surface.
Currently fence construction is underway around the solar farm acreage. There is 67,000 feet of 6 foot fence topped with 3 strands of barb wire. To understand the complexity of the fencing, it is approximately the distance from the east city limits of LaFayette to the west city limits of Lanett. The fencing is contracted to Fortress Fencing out of Carrboro, NC.
Out of the approximately 1100 hundred acres purchased by the Origis Solar Group, only 700 hundred acres will have panels located on the tract. Since the terrain is rolling, it was impossible to level all the terrain so that all acres would be exposed to sun rays. Also, there is a myriad of streams that run through the property that renders this acreage unsuitable for solar farm use.
There was concern that since the solar panels were only warranted for 20 years, that the efficiency of the panels would decline each year to the point that in later stages there would insufficient energy produced. The Solar Farm Engineers tell me that the yearly loss of energy from aging of the panels is insignificant.
The project Senior Superintendent, David Dzeima, tells me that they will be mechanically completed in early November, meaning that the piers (steel I-beams), tracking system (racking) and solar panels will all be 100% installed.