5 Factors That Complicate Erosion Control on Solar Farms

June 11th, 2018

Solar farms are rightfully advertised as a green and eco-friendly alternative to coal and nuclear power generation. However, they can still cause problems for the local environment in the form of serious erosion and water runoff if they aren’t handled carefully during and after site preparation.

Careful planning to prevent erosion is necessary with solar farms because there are a few distinct features to these installations that make them particularly prone to erosion and runoff. Make sure you aren’t harming any local waterways or causing problems for neighboring properties by addressing these five factors in your soil stabilization plan.

1. Shaded Conditions

Even with prompt and proper seeding of the entire solar farm site, the very nature of solar panel installation creates fully shaded areas that slow plant growth. When seeding the entire site in a single type of grass or plant, you’ll end up having growth problems in either the sunny or shady areas.

There’s no need to specifically seed each area based on its sunlight level. Simply request a mix of both shade- and sun-loving grasses and native plants to ensure that each area is covered in living erosion control as quickly as possible. The plants will self-select based on the conditions in each area without extra work on your part.

2. Complex Layout

Other types of properties that are at high risk for erosion usually have a limited number of structures and features to obstruct the use of machinery. Solar farms are usually covered in hundreds of panels and racks, leaving only small gaps between the rows. Since most erosion control measures aren’t started until after the panels are installed, it’s tricky to get the soil properly covered and seeded without damaging the equipment.

Hydroseeding is the best option for erosion control on an established solar farm site with the equipment in place. The hydroseeding mixture is evenly sprayed onto the ground from a distance without risking damage to the panels or racks.

3. Sloped Land

Since solar farms are an efficient way to make use of land that isn’t useful for other purposes, many farms are installed on sloped properties that further increase the likelihood and severity of erosion. Slopes also make it harder to establish living erosion control growth since the increased speed of water running down the slope is likely to wash away both seeds and newly germinated seedlings.

Again, hydroseeding helps work around this challenge because of the adhesive agent. These liquid mulch materials help hold seeds in place until they have germinated and grown strong enough roots to resist the eroding effects of water running down the slope’s surface.

4. Soil Disturbance

Soil disturbance is limited to the area where a building or structure is planned on most properties, but solar farms stretch out over the entire acreage in most cases, meaning that there’s a lot more soil disturbance necessary during installation, from grading to digging foundation holes for installing the supportive racks.

One way to limit the amount of soil disturbance is to build the solar arrays in sections and seed each area as soon as it’s completed. Taking a short break between the construction of different sections allows for the establishment of healthy grass and plant growth in the lowest parts of the property before the upper areas are completed. This process creates a living buffer to slow down erosion and runoff while installation is still ongoing.

5. Flat Surfaces

Finally, solar farms tend to have more flat surfaces on buildings and other structures since the majority of the site is covered in angled panels. Flat surfaces, from roofs to solar panels, increase the severity of erosion because the water runs off of the edge and creates a lot of extra soil disturbance when it drips off. Staggering rows, choosing different layouts, and installing heavily planted ditches along drip lines can all reduce the erosion impact.

Need help preventing erosion and runoff issues on your new solar farm? Hydrograss Technologies has the experience, knowledge, and equipment to solve your problems.