Tough job: Installation of solar on the DRI hillside |

Tough job: Installation of solar on the DRI hillside

Rob Sabo

Installation of a 1-megawatt solar facility on the hillsides around Desert Research Institute ranks among the most difficult jobs Hamilton Solar has ever completed, Chief Executive Office Reid Hamilton says.

An overview of the installation:

Teams of installers hand-carried 3,948 panels measuring 3.5-feet by 6.5-feet across five acres of rugged terrain to complete the DRI solar installation. Each panel weighs about 60 pounds, Hamilton says. Laborers had to traverse slopes up to 20 degrees to get the panels to the foundations that held the racking for the panels.

In order to avoid disturbing the terrain, Hamilton Solar used a newer technology to create the foundations that hold the panels. Crews installed five-foot ground screws into pre-dug holes excavated by drilling equipment typically used in the mining exploration industry.

Work had to be completed in three months.

“It was more difficult than about any project we have touched or done,” Hamilton says. “We did our best in a very short time frame — three months to build that project was very challenging.”

Sourcing labor also proved to be difficult. Hamilton Solar had to ramp up on electricians and installers to get the job completed on time.

“It was very labor-intensive,” Hamilton adds. “We had about 35 guys total out there. They would come in at end of day and feel like they had gone to war. They had to carry those panels above their heads, and they were walking around a boulder field. But our team came together and laid out a fantastic strategy. It took the entire team.”

Hamilton Solar was awarded the contract in December. It also had other projects going on concurrently, which stretched the company’s staff quite thin. Use of the ground screw technology expedited construction since construction crews didn’t have to grade the land and wait for poured concrete foundations to cure.

The facility, the second solar installation at DRI, is expected to offset about $193,000 of energy usage each year.