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The solar panels will be supported by hundreds of ground screws.

The solar panels will be supported by hundreds of ground screws.

Engineering works have begun on another solar farm on MassDOT’s highway right-of-way on Route 3 in Plymouth. Once complete the site will be home to 649 kilowatts of solar voltaic panels, enough to power approximately 120 Massachusetts homes. Contractors were on site in June installing the ground screws that provide a foundation for the solar arrays.

“Using this approach, the foundations for this whole solar farm can be installed in just one day, with minimal ground disturbance,” says MassDOT employee Lily Oliver. “Contractors at this site have utilized a self-driving survey vehicle which sets out the ground screw locations much faster than surveying by hand. We understand that this is the first time that this technique has been used in Massachusetts.”

This self-driving survey vehicle identifies the location of each ground screw using GPS

This self-driving survey vehicle identifies the location of each ground screw using GPS

“Construction is actually the fast part of these projects,” says Lily. “Before construction can begin, a lot of work is required to consult the local community, identify underground utilities, ensure minimal disruption to highway operation and obtain necessary permits.”

The Plymouth initiative is part of MassDOT’s efforts to establish solar farms on underutilized areas near State Highways. These solar projects use an innovative form of Power Purchase Agreement financing, under which a solar developer bears the upfront cost of the installations and operation and maintenance responsibilities, and MassDOT secures a long term agreement to purchase low cost electricity.

This machine drills each ground screw 6 feet deep. The next step is to attach solar panel racking to the top of the ground screws

This machine drills each ground screw 6 feet deep. The next step is to attach solar panel racking to the top of the ground screws

These projects help MassDOT meet the goals of the “GreenDOT” initiative which include the installation of renewable energy projects at MassDOT facilities.

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