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How Challenger Geomatics Fast Tracks Solar Farm Surveying Advanced technology, automated processes and a spirit of innovation has propelled the Canada- based firm to the forefront of high-efficiency surveying for large-scale renewable energy projects.
Large solar farms prom- ise reduced carbon emis- sions and a renewable energy source to meet the increasing demand. But finding themost cost- effective way to build these farms requires the problem-solving exper- tise of forward-thinking surveying firms.
“Large solar farms start with the layout of hundreds of thousands of steel piles to set the foundation for the racking and photovoltaic panels,” explains Mike Fretwell, ALS, CLS, P.Surv., vice president of Calgary Operations for Challenger Geomatics Ltd. “These projects aren’t complex in and of themselves, but the requirements the contractors have in terms of showing progress and meeting deadlines can be challenging. We’re always looking for ways to help ease the pressure on our clients so they can achieve a more profitable installation.” Innovative Tilt Rover Enables High-Speed Surveying Based in Alberta, Canada, with offices in Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Fort McMurray, Chal- lenger Geomatics has a reputation for quality surveying, mapping and remote sensing services as well as creative problem solving. When the company was tasked with the layout of 228,000 steel piles for Canada’s largest solar farm, Challenger Geo- matics was already recognized as one of the most efficient surveying firms in the renewable energy sector in Canada. But as work began on the project in the spring of 2021, Manager Legal/Construction Surveys Drew Stodalka thought they could do better. Challenger’s survey technology dealer, Spatial Technologies, had reached out to themmonths earlier about one of the newest GNSS receiver technologies with tilt compensation, the Leica GS18 T. The ability to measure points without stopping to level the pole promised a substantial increase in speed. As part of Challenger’s technology lease program with Leica Geosystems, upgrading from their existing GNSS rovers was a relatively easy proposition; when their exist- ing lease ended, they could simply trade up to the next-generation equipment for a comparable monthly payment. It just made good business sense. The field staff embraced the change and doubled down on their efforts to increase productivity on the solar farm project. The tilt capabilities of the GS18 T, combined with the diligence of the field crews, shaved seconds off each measurement, which added up to significant time savings. Crews were able to lay out piles up to 25 percent faster, completing hundreds of additional piles per day. “Personally, I had some reservations about the GS18T until I saw howwell it performed in this context,”admits Fretwell. “Drew won’t even consider using a different type of receiver for layout now because of the effectiveness of the GS18 T on this project.” Field Productivity Boost Creates Data Management Opportunity The faster data collection helped ensure the solar project would stay on track with no surveying-related delays. But it also created a new challenge: Significantly more data from the field crews needed to be processed to meet the client’s daily 10 am data review deadline. The improved field productivity was creating a bottleneck in the office. Me-
February 2022 csengineermag.com
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