SunLink’s GeoPro Helps Bring Solar Farm to Tribal Lands
The Moapa Solar Project is the first large‐scale solar project built on tribal property, located on the Moapa Paiutes’ tribal land 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It will supply renewable energy to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for the Los Angeles region under a 25‐year supply contract that will provide clean power to nearly 100,000 homes in its first year of operation alone.
The Moapa River Indian Reservation consists of 29,137 hectares and belongs to the the Moapa Band of Paiutes, part of the Southern Paiute Nation. The Moapa solar plant occupies approximately 800 hectares of tribal land.
The Tribe’s goal was to preserve its homeland while creating new avenues for growth. Aletha Tom, chairwoman of the Moapa Paiute Tribal Council said, “If our small Tribe can accomplish this, then others can also. There are endless opportunities in renewable energy, and Tribes across the nation have the available land on which to build them.”
Like many sites in the southwest, the soil on the Moapa River Indian Reservation includes caliche, which makes post driving difficult. Therefore, reducing the number of posts required for the installation was imperative. In addition, with installation slated to begin in the summer, during which desert temperatures regularly top 100 degrees, installation speed and methodologies were also an important driver. The project also was designed to use thin film modules, which required specific mounting hardware. And of course as with any utility‐scale project, containing costs was key.
SunLink structural engineers worked hand‐in‐hand with the company’s product engineers to enhance SunLink’s existing GeoPro fixed tilt solar ground mount system in‐line with the Moapa project’s unique needs.
To achieve both the necessary decreased post count and lowest cost, the team leveraged SunLink’s extensive wind testing data to optimize the array for interior and exterior zones. This approach reduced the overall number of posts and other components required, which translated into significant cost savings in connection with both post driving and racking hardware.
Because the modules for the project were thin film, and therefore smaller, GeoPro components were modified slightly to accommodate 7‐module‐assemblies, and SunLink’s proprietary thin film clamps were employed. When it came to installation methodologies for desert heat, the fact that GeoPro racking components could be prepanelized with the modules before being installed on the substructure was a huge win. First, prepanelization could take place offsite in an environmentally controlled facility, protecting the crew from the elements. Second, the prepanelization process could proceed while the substructure was assembled on site, and modules could then be installed in prepanelized assemblies of 7 modules at a time, fast tracking the module installation process by 50 percent.
Making a Difference
SunLink is proud to have played a significant role in this landmark project, advancing solar power adoption in the United States and helping to expand economic opportunities in the renewable energy sector.