Our insatiable demand for electricity is forcing utilities and energy providers to build new sources of power. Advances in solar technology combined with falling costs and a push by the federal government for renewable energy has made solar power more popular than ever. Unfortunately, many of the prime locations for high mega-watt solar farms are either gone, too expensive, or not in proximity to growing population centers.
As a result, utility-grade solar arrays are more frequently being constructed on less desirable lands previously used for other purposes, such as agricultural farmland, commercial nurseries, grazing lands, even Superfund sites and decommissioned nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. These properties, often contaminated with pollutants, are no longer suitable for residential or commercial development. But they can be repurposed into clean energy producing canvases.
The problem with these lands is that trenching is not always the best option (or even possible in the case of a cement-capped Superfund site). Besides the costly, lengthy, messy process of burying lines, soil conditions can change from one end of the property to the other. There are all types of potential unknowns like possibly having to dig through caliche, salt deposits, mud or rocky terrain. In every trench, workers may or may not encounter boulders requiring heavy equipment to move, or unmarked water, waste, communication, and power lines on lands previously zoned for commercial use. Erecting solar arrays on repurposed grazing or farmland presents its own unique challenges. While the land may be tilled and flat, trenching cables potentially exposes workers to decades of hazardous chemicals plowed into the earth from fertilizers, and risks contaminating nearby water supplies through rain runoff if brought to the surface. Then there are unforeseen delays due to weather, and after trenching is complete and the cables are buried, time must be allowed for the ground to settle. In far northern latitudes, trenching is impossible during winter due to permafrost, limiting construction windows and halting work completely for months at a time. And we haven’t even touched on the subject of cable de-rate and its impact on cost…yet.
Surely, there must be a better way to overcome the challenges to building solar plants on nonarable land or less desirable sites. There is, and we call it the Snake Tray Solar Snake Max™.
The Solar Snake Max™ is a completely trenchless solar wire management solution for solar plants. The only one of its kind, it requires no field fabrication and can cut installation time and labor costs by 30% to 50% over traditional trenching while leaving the ground as undisturbed as much as possible.
Solar Snake Max™ is an above-ground system that attaches to piles driven into the ground via tensioned messenger wire. An all-in-one solution, it conveys the high amperage cables carrying DC power from the arrays to the interconnection, the low voltage wires for sensors that monitor weather conditions and panel performance, as well as the AC current powering the motors that enable the panels to track the path of the sun. Solar Snake Max™ can traverse any distance over any type of terrain.
Solar Snake Max™ is the only system designed to comply with the Free Air Table for electrical current transference as per Article 310, 15 (B) (19) of the National Electrical Code. That means it can manage cables in open air while maintaining code complaint uniform separation for heat dissipation over the entire length of the run, eliminating the need to de-rate cables. Its simple snap-together, multi-level bracket design supports up to 36 properly spaced cables as heavy as 750 Kcmil, and makes it easy for installers to route cables quickly.
In addition to eliminating subterranean challenges and reducing labor costs by as much as 50%, the trenchless Solar Snake Max™ system brings a number of benefits to solar farms of any size:
- Faster installation. Simply drive piles into the ground, run and tension the messenger wire, and begin hanging brackets and running cable on each row as erected. No need to wait for entire fields to be trenched and ground to settle. Snake Tray can cite multiple examples of compressing a week’s worth of digging into two days.
- Total visibility to cable plant. An above-ground system is easier to design, cost estimate, and install. Post-construction, it is much easier to identify cables in need of maintenance. Immediately pinpoint failures for a quick splice repair as opposed to taking the system off-line, digging up and reburying hundreds of feet of cable.
- Material cost savings. There’s no need to purchase and bury 500 Kcmil cables to realize a 350 Kc mil maximum ampacity after de-rate, for example. The open air design of the Solar Snake Max™ allows smaller gauge cables to be used to their full capacity for substantial material savings. (The savings in copper alone can cost-justify Solar Snake Max™ in most instances).
- Maximum return on investment. Solar plants will realize a faster, more profitable ROI by harvesting 100% of the power they generate, rather than losing a significant percentage of capacity (up to 50%) to de-rate.
- Solar Snake Max™ mounts to any type of vertical piling or pole driven into the ground or attached to a structured surface; no special machinery or hardware is required.
- Eases environmental concerns. Leaving the ground as undisturbed as possible is often the best option for repurposing land containing toxic chemicals.
- Simplified operations and maintenance. Solar Snake Max™ is designed to easily load cables and keep them suspended off the ground with minimal sagging. This allows for easy vegetation/weed control that naturally occurs in fields without damaging cables.
- Built for the elements. Solar Snake Max™ is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, and prolonged exposure to sun, rain, ice and snow.
- Allows for solar plant construction 12 months/year. Eliminate construction delays from permafrost or buried obstacles even in the coldest climates.
The Snake Tray Solar Snake Max™ solves just about every conceivable problem related to trenching. It allows for solar plant construction anywhere, anytime with minimal environmental impact, is safer for workers, and can transform unusable properties into energy producing assets. Repurposed farmland, old manufacturing sites riddled with PCBs, capped landfills, decommissioned power plants, even wetlands and areas with high water tables are now all potential trenchless solar farm locations. This is the power of Snake Tray Solar Snake Max™. Visit us at snaketray.com and let us show you how to save time and money on your next solar cabling project.
Snake Tray has revolutionized the data and power distribution market with cable management, power distribution systems and enclosures all designed to install quickly, reduce labor and material costs, and significantly drive down the total cost of construction. If you would like to learn more, visit us at snaketray.com. Our engineers and sales teams stand ready to help execute your next cabling project with maximum efficiency and profitability.