Case Study: Replacing & Recycling 13,000 Solar Panels Damaged by West Texas Hailstorm
July 3, 2019
World Wind & Solar (WWS) is proud to be a leader in the utility-scale renewable energy industry, providing an elite workforce of technicians and laborers for our wind and solar clients across the nation.
We consider ourselves the ‘easy button’ of the solar and wind services sector, able to tackle any and all problems that partners and clients may need us to swoop in and fix at any given time. And that’s exactly what WWS did recently with one of our key O&M clients who saw a hailstorm damage thousands of PV panels at a West Texas solar installation. Few companies have the experience with mobilizing a large contingent of safety-minded, hard-working technicians capable of inspecting, removing, re-installing, and testing newly installed modules for maximum performance. WWS even helped the client with recycling the damaged solar panels. For those clients that have the WWS corporate number on speed dial, this overwhelming challenge was handled with a single call. Within days of the execution plan being agreed to, WWS was there to help provide the knowledge, the muscle, and the execution they needed.
OVERVIEW OF THE PROJECT
This 160MW West Texas solar site opened in 2016. After a hailstorm left the site with thousands of damaged solar panels, the O&M provider who operates the site, called WWS to tackle this unexpected challenge.
Most O&M companies are unable to staff up for these types of emergencies and traditional labor companies do not have the staff or experience needed to work in and on energized solar arrays. With over a dozen years of solving problems for clients across the country, WWS was the logical solution. Leveraging knowledgeable and experienced crews, along with seasoned project managers, WWS was able to deliver a seamless solution from start to finish.
Through the course of this project, over 13,000 solar panels were tagged damaged and slated for replacement. Never one to restrict their role or offerings narrowly, the team from WWS did a completely independent assessment of the site, reviewed the best course of action with the site management, and left the solar site even more productive and valuable than it was before the storm.
Eager to provide as quick and complete a solution as possible, WWS deployed more than two dozen workers to the Texas site for the project. The veritable solar module repair/replacement Dream Team. Upon arrival, WWS did a complete damage assessment, developed and presented a project execution plan along with a safety assessment with the client. WWS also presented the post-repair testing plan to ensure the replaced panels were operating at full capacity.
WWS systematically took down the affected arrays to assess the damage to the modules and the equipment across the site. Although the O&M client provided estimates on the damages and the repair/replacement needs, we did our own due diligence to ensure none were overlooked.
Additionally, while the project was mainly carried out between WWS and the O&M client, the owner of the site was present to ensure all safety regulations and site procedures were followed. While WWS had taken charge of leading this solar repair/replacement/recycling project, frequent collaboration and communication between involved parties was key to the success of the process. WWS strives to be the ‘easy button’, but we’re also team players and seek to involve and incorporate other relevant teams from beginning to end.
LESSONS LEARNED AND EXPERTISE
Though WWS had completed similar projects in California, this new opportunity gave us a chance to again tap into our deep expertise in solar panel replacement in a way that presented new challenges to overcome and new lessons to learn. Previous projects consisted of fire-damaged panels, trackers, and the associated wiring which presented its own unique challenges. Not only did we get to come in and provide a solution to their problem, replacing thousands of panels in just 16 weeks and repairing other damaged equipment, we also jumped at the chance to learn and grow as a company. Our teams recognize that there are always lessons to learn that when applied allow us to be the best solutions provider in the business.
Overcoming new challenges, whether it be environmental, with unique climate (such as the numerous windy and rainy days on this project), or more remote locations with limited resources, only further our experience and provides for an added well of knowledge for future projects. At its core, it’s about providing the solutions our clients need to keep their site running at maximum capacity.
IMPACT TO THE CLIENT AND THE COMMUNITY
Last, but by no means least, WWS focuses on people above all else. Not only do we care deeply about investing in our own employees, but we also want to leave the communities in which we work better than they were when we arrived. The West Texas solar facility generates enough electricity to power 30,000 households, sells renewable energy credits (RECs) to promote clean power generation to a regional power provider, employs locals to operate and maintain its 1,300-acre facility, and is even known to contribute to local organizations from the library to the food bank and even science festivals. These aspects factor into why the West Texas solar facility is so important to the surrounding community and why getting it back up and running as soon as possible was so critical.
Given the challenges of working in this new area that’s a truly small town (population of fewer than 10,000 people), our WWS team reported that the area was welcoming, accommodating, and extremely helpful.
Adam McDevitt, one of the project supervisors, noted “A couple of small businesses really stepped up for us to get this project done. Not only was the project important to get up and running for the community that relies upon it, but we were even able to put some money in their pockets by having a few of the locals out here on-site working with us.”
WWS has been proud to work with the aid of this community and to benefit the local area, employing our unmatched experience as a solutions provider, teams of professionals, and industry-leading expertise.
When you have a need, whether from an unexpected hailstorm or just routine maintenance, give WWS a call and let us be your ‘easy button’.