Best Energy/Industrial Project: Palmdale 24MW Solar PV Farm Expansion by Lockheed Martin

The first large-scale utility solar power plant designed by Lockheed Martin, this 24-MWDC photovoltaic plant–which houses over 55,000 solar panels — is projected to cut annual energy bills by up to 4 million dollars. Through careful planning of the staging equipment, the location of the facility, and road conditions, the team could safely remove the panels, transport them, and finally install the entire array with just 80 non-warranty breaks. This was a huge success considering that the modules needed to be delivered more than a year before construction.

California Fish and Game Commission was granted a one-year candidacy to decide if the western Joshua tree–131 if it grows on the property–should be designated as threatened in the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The duration of the period offers temporary legal protections for the species and makes the killing or removal of Joshua trees illegal without a permit.

Burns & McDonnell employed a team member to reduce the impacts on Joshua trees and help with the application process. Team members applied for and obtained an initial Incidental Take Permit for Joshua trees throughout the state. They worked with the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW). Incidental Take Permit identified a mitigation plan that included protection and avoidance and transplanting and developing a mitigation bank. The team succeeded in transplanting Joshua trees to an airpark in the local area and secured the trees.

Innovative strategies were also required for a drainage ditch that ran along the site’s west side, which had to remain unaffected. The team employed directionally drilling of the alternating current system for drainage crossings to minimize the impact. This was made possible by signing a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement with CDFW. In addition, early coordination among the stakeholders made it easier to manage the process.

Coordinating with power utilities for improvements also required careful attention. Working with Lockheed Martin, the project team anticipated a time-related issue when working with utilities. However, through coordination, advanced planning for outages, and collaboration with utilities, the team could put all the infrastructure needed up and running before the scheduled backfeed date.

In addition to the construction issues, the team had been concerned about problems with supply chain management and theft.

Due to the current supply chain challenges, the team could jump over obstacles to obtain essential materials and keep the project on time. For instance, when dead break elbow replacements for the inverters were required, collective procurement resources were used to source the needed parts from multiple suppliers. Unfortunately, this was a problem that was likely to alter the process of completion significantly.

The facility also suffered from thefts and break-ins, requiring immediate action to replenish materials even as the supply chain was stretched. The grounding of the fence with copper wire was also among the stolen items; the issue was resolved with a modification to conductors made of aluminum.

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