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Choosing the right pile driver for Australian solar array installation

In many large-scale, ground-mounted solar farms, choosing the right pile driver is vital for building strong foundations.  A reliable and efficient pile driver ensures that work continues quickly and without delays caused by offline equipment.

In ground-mounted solar PV systems, there are four main foundations types in regular use: driven piles, screws, helical piles, and ballasted foundations.  Vermeer Australia Construction Equipment Sales Manager Jeff Lawson said for sites with good soil cohesiveness and low water tables, the optimal foundation was the driven pile.

“Using piles for foundations is advantageous as they can be installed very quickly with pile drivers, such as the Vermeer PD10. With its GPS guidance and automation features, piles can also be installed cheaply compared with other foundations.

“The PD10 improves efficiency and productivity while ensuring accuracy, using an inclinometer with auto-plumb and a laser-controlled post-depth-control feature to make sure each pile is installed exactly in place.”

Mr Lawson said that as piles were the foundation upon which a ground-mounted solar panel system was built, it was vital to install them correctly.

“It is important to get pile installation right, but varying ground and terrain conditions at the site may create problems for installers. Piles have to be driven into the ground at extremely precise levels no matter the conditions.

“On large-scale projects, you need a machine that not only eliminates the guesswork, but does so consistently.”

Choosing the right pile driver is essential, as SunPower discovered while installing the 40MW Sichuan Province solar farm in China, as part of a project with technology giant, Apple.

The SunPower contractor purchased a pile driver from a leading manufacturer in June 2014, only to find when the machine went down, they had to wait weeks for servicing support and months to receive replacement parts.

The downtime was costly and had a significant impact on the project’s timeline.

As a result, SunPower purchased a Vermeer PD10. The pile driver was so successful that all Sunpower contractors in China subsequently switched to Vermeer ground-mounting equipment.

Mr Lawson said, “The mounting system is the base of a solar farm operation. SunPower realised that in order to get the right foundation, you need a machine with reliability, efficiency and timely support.

“The PD10 has all that and more. It is the culmination of several equipment innovations designed to handle multiple installation functions in a variety of alternative energy solutions.

“Vermeer is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of Australian and global advancement of renewable energy generation.”