Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

First site visit to the in-construction solar farm!

Today we drove 8 hours (4 hours from my house to site, 4 hours back) to visit the solar farm for the first time since we actually started work, and only the second time ever. We visited the morning after we got planning permission, but that was about 9 months ago now, which is crazy but true. At last, stuff is actually happening, and I wanted to see it for myself!

Amusingly, one of the benefits of visiting the site while its being built is there are two signs that say ‘site traffic’ which you can follow. Its REALLY hard to find otherwise. It’s so tricky that even with the postcode you can go the wrong way. Last time we blundered around for ages looking for the right field, but luckily this time we could just follow signs, even the amusingly amateur ‘solar’ sign to make it clear we are at the right field :D.

Apparently the gate just next to this had to be widened to allow some of the bigger trucks to get into the site. We then have all the excitement of our new road! We built this road, and it will be there as a permanent access road to the finished site. Its not exactly a tarmacked motorway, but its actually not too bad.

At the end of this road we have a temporary construction area, where a metal interlinked floor has been laid down (which took a whole day), so that HGVs can drive in, and reverse and get out again without destroying the field or getting stuck in mud. Apparently you can put 100 tons on each section of this stuff.

That green box is actually pretty cool, its a diesel generator plus kitchen plus office space all in a snazzy prefab unit that you can just drop on site as a kind of instant construction site HQ. There were plans on the walls showing the site layout, and the most important pre-construction hardware: a kettle. There are some other shipping containers used for secure storage for stuff like the inverters, when they show up, and are currently packed with sacks and sacks of panel-attachment fixings.

The rest of the site consists of lots and lots of rows of metal posts, and 2 tracked machines that basically repeatedly drop big heavy weights in a controlled way to bash metal posts very VERY firmly into the soil:

These are the main posts that form the chunkiest part of the frames. They are taller than they look in this picture, and pretty thick. There are also connecting pieces that will define the slope that the panels will rest on, then finally the rails that will connect them all together so that panels can be attached to them. At the moment, its just a matter of bashing the posts in. They are aiming to get 90 of them done per day, and we need a lot of them. I was told we have another 6 people joining the team on Monday, and a week later, the panels will be on site being fitted. Its going to move pretty quickly from here on. Also, they are in the middle of building the ‘stock fence’ which will be used to manage sheep so they can graze the other half of the field during construction. There is also a ‘deer fence’ that will form the entire perimeter of the site, and eventually some metal gates and a substation! Also CCTV masts.

Thats me trying to look like I do this all the time. Those two rows of cones define a zone of the field we cannot currently work on, because an 11,000 volt power cable is overhead. You really don’t want the pile-driver top to accidentally touch it! Soon, (but annoyingly we are not sure when), that power line will be buried by the DNO in a trench around the exterior of the site, and re-emerge near the substation. Currently, people are working either to the east of the line, or the west, but ignoring the middle bit until the cable is gone. Its a logistical pain in the ass, but its what we have to do in order to be working now, rather than wait for the DNO. We have waited long enough, so its really time to get building now.

I think these are the connecting frame bits, rather than the posts, but I’m not 100% sure TBH. There is a LOT of metal on the site. There is a surprisingly amount of stuff required to build a solar farm that is not solar panels. The big problem you have is longevity. Sure, you can bang any old metal post in a hole and screw a solar panel to it, but the issue is ensuring that its going to stay solid and upright for 25 years (40 preferred), despite driving rain, baking heat, and the occasional incredibly strong wind. Plus sheep scratching up against them, and god knows what else. Everything is pretty industrial, because it has to be built to last.

So… In terms of how physically big it is… its actually pretty big. I half expected to visit the site and go ‘oh its kinda small really, a bit trivial now I see it’ but no. Its going to be pretty awesome. The site looks impressive when you are there even just as a bunch of cones and posts. When I go back and see all the posts in, and some of the frames, its going to be super awesome. With panels and a substation it will be hilarious.

I suspect everyone who does stuff like this is very nervous with the first project, and obviously almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome to some degree or another. Despite that, today’s site visit went really well. I am very happy with the progress, it was good to meet the site manager in person for the first time and talk to him and other people there. I also forgot that its a REALLY nice spot. On a sunny day, the views from the site are really nice. Most solar farms are places pretty flat and boring, but this one is unusually hilly, and surrounded by other hills. I’m definitely excited to go back and see more!

2 thoughts on First site visit to the in-construction solar farm!

  1. I’ve been following this saga for a few years via your Twitter… So cool to see it finally come to life. Good luck!

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