Anyone on here cut solar farms?

OuterSpacesLLC

LawnSite Member
I have an opportunity to cut 3 solar sites totaling 330 acres! I have done small commercial but nothing to this scale. They have informed me they want 4 cuts per year at each site and would like pricing per acre mowed.
There is 25’ from post to post and 13’ between the edges of the solar panels so I was thinking of running a large tractor down the middle with a 15’ batwing brush hog. And then running two 72” zero turns to cut around the posts. The solar panels pivot during the day so there is room to go under one side in the morning and one side in the afternoon.

Iwould appreciate any input on pricing and/or equipment on a job like this! Thanks!
 
OP
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OuterSpacesLLC

LawnSite Member
I did. They did not answer my specific questions. I’m looking for more information from people knowledgeable in this area.
 

Bluffman

LawnSite Member
Location
Minnesota
I've not cut solar farms but I have first hand knowlege of some things that may help you. First, the "pivoting" you speak of allowing you full height access on each side at opposite times of the day is correct but you're not seeing the whole picture. Those types of panels are called "tracker" systems and they tilt facing east in the morning and continue to move as the sun moves during the day and end up facing west. The issue you will face all day long is as they move, you lose (and gain) on the opposite side. At midday, they will be flat like a tabletop and you'll have low clearance on both sides. They also don't move according to a schedule but on a light sensor that tells the controller its time to tilt the array, so at any time, they will move without notice. They don't move a lot but just an FYI. Another consideration is to actually visit the site and determine whether or not they use a driveshaft system to tilt the array. If this is the case, there will be driveshafts running from row to row that will be in your way. In the midwest, they are usually in the middle of the rows so you can't just run one end to the other, there will be this shaft preventing you from doing so. Also, depending on the specs you are expected to adhere to, you may be required to do a lot of handheld trimming on posts, under electrical equipment on each row, under the driveshafts and any areas you cannot access with ride on equipment. Just saying to be careful on pricing as thats a lot of acreage to lose money on if you goof up.
 
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OuterSpacesLLC

LawnSite Member
Thanks for the info! That is good feedback. There is nothing running between the arrays. When they are flat I believe I can still get under them. If I can’t then I have a good amount of cutting around the outside of the panels we could do with z mowers.
 

Bluffman

LawnSite Member
Location
Minnesota
Oh...I forgot to mention another potential issue is quality of site conditions. The solar companies offer farmers big bucks to lease out their land for 25 year contracts. The farmers cash in by offering up plots of their worst land...poorly drained, low lying areas, full of slow drying clay etc. None of them are stupid, they take the poorest producing farmland and turn it into easy money. Point is, you may agree to cut 4 times annually but the days you commit to you may be in soggy, gooey crap...even standing water. Again, not sure where you are but in Minnesota, you'd be amazed at the poor site conditions many of these olar sites are built on.
 

sagesove

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
on this rock
@OuterSpacesLLC

I'd like to know who the company is offering the contract? Is it NextEra? Is it a property management company? Is it a national service provider? I have a good friend in deep with NextEra. I may be able to provide some quid pro quo.
 

AlohaMowing

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Hilo, HI
Are you sure the panels actually go flat at some time of the day? Depending on latitude and season and array design they may always be tilted toward the south (assuming you are in the northern hemisphere), and may rotate so they face east in the morning, south at noon, and west in the afternoon. As a result, you may never have the full height you expect on the south side.

Doing the math, it sounds as if each array is 12' wide. Being (presumably) square that would mean the diagonal distance would be 17' so there may be times that they are rotated to significantly reduce the width of opening between corners of the arrays. But then, too, depending on the tilt of the arrays the openings between arrays may increase significantly.

To plan the mowing pattern and equipment requirements requires a good understanding of how the array is designed and functions.

And does vegetation grow up to the vertical posts? Or is there so much shade from the overhead array that nothing grows? Or is there a concrete apron around each post that would keep vegetation from growing within a foot or two of the post? Any issue with spraying herbicide around the posts? You would not be able to run a ztr flush to each post and if you need to run a string trimmer around each you need to put that in your bid. If there are no wires/conduits/etc. external to the posts you might find that a post mower would be the quickest/easiest way to mow around them. Take a look at:
CALDERONI AGRICULTURE grass shredder
Raster Master Trim Mower
fence mower videos
I have no experience with those, and some are probably pretty expensive, but many of them look interesting.
 

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