Powering communities with zero-carbon electricity

Advanced Power partnered with Bechtel to complete the engineering, procurement, and construction of its first renewable energy facility, Cutlass Solar, in Fort Bend, Texas. The solar PV project, built on a 700-acre site, will add 140 MWDC to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ Houston Zone, producing enough zero-carbon electricity to power approximately 15,000 homes. Once the solar farm begins commercial operations, currently scheduled for 2022, it will save 300,000 metrics tons of CO2 emissions per year.

Innovation

High-volume projects like the Cutlass utility-scale solar project are perfect for deploying new technologies. Bechtel utilized a mix of digital and physical technologies to positively impact performance and efficiently deliver the project, taking advantage of innovations that allow for safer, higher quality, repeatable, and reliable project execution.

Some of the innovations Bechtel used on the Cutlass Solar Project included:

  • Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping – This centralized system captured all project data tied to geographic positions on the earth’s surface, allowing for analysis and management across the many acres of a solar project and providing for streamlined communications between all team members. As teammates worked their way through the solar field, the system could locate a point on a map and provide all the design specifics, pictures, construction status and inspection notes in the palm of each person’s hands. 
  • Autonomous equipment – Bechtel used GPS equipped, autonomous machine positioning pile drivers for solar pile installation that improved the accuracy and quality of installations. Installation progress, as-built information, and individual pile drive time data was instantaneously provided. Bechtel’s proprietary algorithm allowed for 100% digital inspection of pile installation to the IFC design.
  • Robotics – CivDot is a robot on wheels that increased the pace of accurately locating points within the solar field. This self-driving robot helped to improve survey location productivity from 300 piles per day to 1,500 piles per day. 
  • Drones – Using drone technologies, the team quickly captured thermal imagery and photogrammetry across hundreds of acres. This is yet another tool that supported progress visualization and kept the team on track toward its goals. Thermal imaging supported the identification of solar array issues from soiling to damaged panels to strings not performing, enabling site teams to act swiftly as they isolated and rectified issues that kept the site from operating at full capacity. The drone in the sky gives the Advanced Power and Bechtel team an upper hand at ensuring plant performance ahead of facility performance testing, giving meaningful data to understand export capabilities translating to plant guarantees. 

Digital execution 

Bechtel implemented a 100% digital execution model, allowing the entire team to understand its progress with ease. Project management had the necessary real-time information to allow for data-driven, immediate changes, which was particularly helpful in the high-volume business of renewables. Daily goals and performance to those goals was readily accessible and drove both the craft professionals and the project team to manage their schedules, aligning with key project milestones. Digital execution also facilitated collaboration and expedited information sharing to bring solutions to the field. Here are a few examples from our recent solar execution demonstrating those benefits:

  • Steel pile installation was one of the first commodities of solar installation. From initial onboarding to peak, the piling crews improved their unit rate, allowing for piling to complete weeks ahead of schedule.
  • At the start of solar tracker installation, with the help of GIS and the digital execution model in which quantities are claimed daily, the Tracker crews recognized the need to move faster and improved the weekly tracker installation rate to increase tracker installation by 50%.
  • Solar module installation was on the critical path of solar array construction, and with the motivation of instantaneous data, our solar module craft teams doubled their daily production from the start of the work to the completion of the work.

Partnership

Cutlass Solar is the fourth project and first renewable energy facility that Bechtel will deliver for Advanced Power. Advanced Power and Bechtel are committed to low-carbon energy as part of the worldwide mission to reduce emissions.

For more information about Bechtel’s renewable energy capabilities, click here.