The Secrets Beneath the Surface

June 19, 2017


Tempted to skip pile testing as you prepare for your next commercial or utility-scale fixed-tilt or tracker ground mount project? You might want to reconsider.

Only with a thorough geotechnical assessment can you learn the secrets hidden below the surface of your project site – knowledge that is essential to inform product selection, product design and efficient installation.

What important hidden truths might pull testing reveal?

1) Will anything stand in the way of post driving?

Underground obstructions can damage equipment and piles, bring installation to a screeching halt or even requiring a change in foundation mid-project – expensive and time consuming problems. By contrast, understanding what obstructions exist before product selection and installation allows you to initiate the project with the most cost-effective system solution and realistic schedules. For example, you might decide to proceed with pile and assume longer drive times. Or perhaps switching to ground screws or a ballasted foundation would be the best decision. In any case, knowing what lies beneath from day one will reduce risk and improve project outcomes.

2) Will the posts stay put?

If the soil is loose or you discover water running beneath the surface, you provide your mounting system design team with crucial information they need to deliver a foundation capable of withstanding those conditions for the life of the project. Loose soil may be countered with piles driven deep enough or with a post profile large enough to withstand the soils shifting forces. Or, in the case of loose soil or groundwater lurking beneath the surface, it might be necessary to change to helicals or ballast.

3) Will soil conditions change seasonally?

What if you are installing in a location in which soils are saturated and loose during the rainy season, but firm and prone to cracking during the hot summer months? Only with a geotechnical analysis of the plasticity of the soil can you fully understand how the properties of the soil will change seasonally and what design measures are required to accommodate those changing conditions.  A thorough understanding of the soil’s properties over time informs a design able to withstand the full spectrum of conditions.

Using pile testing to uncover the secrets that lie beneath the surface during development of a project enables realistic budgets and schedules, and ensures both product and project design are properly conceived – ultimately making projects more successful and bankable over their entire lifespan.

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