In my youth, I remember that after a heavy rain, the water in streams around LaFayette were blood red in color. That was because all the agricultural community plowed the soil resulting in loose cropland that eroded into the local streams and on to the Chattahoochee and Tallapoosa River. I expected that to happen when Swinerton Solar Farm moved millions of tons of soil in order to level the solar panel site. This did not happen thanks to the extremes that the owners of Clenera Solar Energy invested in measures to control contamination from the surroundings.
The company has constructed 34 sediment ponds to prevent any run-off from loose soil to enter the local streams. The ponds have a filter installed that allow the sediments to settle to the bottom and the clear water to enter the local streams. Upon settlement of all the particulates, the soil trapped in the pond is removed and spread on open acres where it is leveled, mulched and seeded. This operation will continue for 7 years to allow the solar pond site to be 100% grassed.
And the steps that Clenera Solar Energy has taken to protect the local environment goes on and on–
1. 16 miles off metal fencing was erected around the 7 solar panel locations. However, 6 miles of fencing would have enclosed the entire 1,100 acre project. However, by fencing the panel locations mainly separated by small streams consisting of 700 acres, it allows 400 acres of the site to be left for natural vegetation and wildlife.
2. Permanent roads have been constructed around all the panel locations. These roads have a gravel applied surface that prevents erosion and pot holes.
3. All cables connecting the panels, the invertors and substation are underground. No overhead wires interfere with normal access to the site.
4. Metal grates have been constructed and placed on all locations that provide access to the county roads. The grates allow most of the loose soil under the traffic to be shaken loose before entering the county road.
5. All material such as plastic cable cases, cardboard panel boxes, bent metal piers, wooden pallets and trimmed metal copper wiring have been sent to recycling centers.
6. An estimated 25 miles of plastic fencing has been installed around all of the stream-side management zones. In some instances where the one erection of fencing is determined to be insufficient, another line of plastic fencing is erected behind the original fence.
It is obvious that Swinerton Solar Energy has carried out the project in a manner with total dedication to preserving the environment. To initiate these practices, it increases the overall cost of the total project probably by 25%. This is in keeping with the goal of total environmental protection by producing energy by solar energy.