Construction works at the 132 MWdc Merredin Solar Farm site will hit their peak between October and December.
“We expect up to 300 construction workers on site over the coming months with about 100 of them locals from the Merredin area. Originally, we thought 200 workers would be needed, however delays due to the harder than expected ground conditions mean that more construction workers will be required to meet our timeline,” said Risen Energy (Australia)’s, Merredin Solar Farm Project Manager Patrick O’Neill.
“We have been getting three to four phone calls each day from interested workers as well as plenty of CVs. All of these are being passed onto our Perth-based primary contractors Monford Group,” said O’Neill.
Monford Group will be installing the panels, torque tubes, trackers inverters and building the new substation. High voltage conductors to connect the substation to Western Power’s Merredin Terminus have been strung and will be energised once the substation and solar farm are substantially complete.
There were project design changes when early civil works undertaken by Perth-based drilling and piling company, Pilecom, encountered more granite than forecasted by the original surveys. Pilecom adopted different methods to drill post holes into the areas of granite, with steel posts sunk to depths between 1.5m to 3.2m. These posts are for the installation of the tracker system which is required to mount the solar panels and allow them to follow the sun.
Over the past few months, the 360,000 panels and trackers have been delivered to the site in 550 containers.
The 132 MWdc Merredin Solar Farm will use Risen Energy’s 375W Mono solar panels. These panels will cover approximately 260ha of the 460 hectare farm leased by Risen Energy.
The major construction and movement of heavy vehicles is limited to daylight hours for safety reasons. “We’ve looked into the process of installing panels during the evening. It worked well on our other projects, especially in north eastern Queensland, where we worked a night shift. There was no noise – we were installing panels in well-lit areas with safety supervision on site, and people actually enjoyed working at night rather than in the heat of the day,” said O’Neill.
“We have approached the Shire of Merredin Council about our proposal to work night shift and they saw no issues with that. Noise will be kept to a minimum as there will be no heavy vehicle and equipment movement during the night – only personnel installing PV panels onto the tracker system by manual labour. The lighting towers will be restricted to direct overhead lighting and focus on the work area below. This will minimise any chance of the lighting being a nuisance to residents and motorists in the area. If any issues did arise, we will tend to the matter with absolute urgency,” explained O’Neill.
The site will be busy until March when Risen Energy aims to start commissioning its new substation. The Merredin Solar Farm staff have been working closely with the Shire of Merredin to deliver the approvals for the Merredin Solar Farm project and will continue to liaise with the council and government agencies to ensure any requirements are satisfied.