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Solar Farm adds 100 employees, panels arrive
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Solar Farm adds 100 employees, panels arrive

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By Bill Frazer

I am constantly amazed at the priority of the LaFayette Solar Farm contractors under the leadership of Swinerton Renewable Energy to adhere to safety and environmental standards. There are a vast array of porter potties placed at work stations. There are hand washing facilities at the these facilities as well. There is even a eye washing facility located at the main entrance to the work site. All the roads have signs posted always within site specifying that the speed limit on site is 15 mph. Getting out of your vehicle on site requires that the individual wear a approved safety helmet and a reflective vest.

There are mud shakers placed at the main entrances of the work site to ensure that the public roads are not coated with red clay from the work site. In spite of all these precautions, it is impossible to avoid getting some contamination onto the county road due to the recent rainy weather. To ensure that the county roads are not contaminated with mud, the public roads are washed clean using a water truck with a spray unit attached. The Swinerton vehicles and contractors vehicles are coated with red clay which is inevitable considering the recent rainy weather that we have had.

A large number of the 338,662 solar panels are already on site. These Chinese manufactured panels are shipped to the Savannah, Georgia harbor. Each truck averages 624 panels per load meaning it requires 526 trips from Savannah. The site survey plans indicate that there will be approximately 850 solar panels placed on a designated acre.

A large number of the piers that support the panels are on site. These steel beams are about 13 feet long and are driven 6 to 7 feet into the ground, in many locations through rocks, to support the panels. The engineers call these beams (piers) and driving the piers into the ground is called pier pounding. I always thought piers were posts at a boat dock. There are 40,000 piers to be pile driven to support the panels.

Aerotek, the agency engaged to handle hiring personnel for the job, reports that they have had a good turnout for the job fairs that they have staged. According to Senior Superintendent David Dezeima, some 100+ employees have been added to the pay roll. Since the lowest pay rate is $14 per hour, even the low skilled employees will earn a good pay check.

Swinerton Solar Energy contractors are currently pouring the foundation for a power substation. This substation is located adjacent to the current line feed ( titled a TAP) under construction by Alabama Power Company. The Swinerton substation will boost the 120 volts generated by the solar panels into 120,000 volts and fed into the TAP of the Alabama Power grid system.

It is difficult for the Swinerton Renewable Energy to purchase all of the needed supplies and services from local businesses, but they have made an all out effort to support the LaFayette community.