Environmental Services Are the Key to Tomorrow’s Solar Projects

February 20, 2023

Environmental services on a sola project

Solar projects continue to be hot. But much of the ideal land for solar development – flat, with few trees and limited environmental constraints – has already been selected. It wasn’t long ago avoiding environmental challenges on solar projects was as easy as simply looking elsewhere. Tomorrow’s solar projects will navigate a more delicate path for development involving wetland permitting, cultural resource services, habitat and biological assessments for threatened and endangered species impacts, and a number of state and federal compliance hurdles which can adversely impact the outcome of a project.

Solar energy and environmental services share a common goal of protecting and preserving the world around us. Terracon’s national network of resources and locally based environmental professionals can partner with you to navigate environmental challenges on your next project.

Local knowledge keeps projects moving forward

The potential environmental challenges facing solar projects are as varied as the land on which they sit. The key to success is strong client and regulatory relationships to navigate a collaborative path to compliance. Terracon’s work on an ongoing project in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and Southwest Power Pool (SPP) region has required collaboration across a number of our offices and specialized expertise related to multiple Authority’s Having Jurisdiction (AHJs). This includes tribal, state, and federal interests with a variety of requirements that have the potential to adversely impact the outcome.

In response to our client’s request, we developed a resource pool consisting of field archeologist, project managers, subject matter experts, and project executives to immediately devise an approach to meet a very aggressive schedule for development of these projects in 2023. This internal collaboration has proven to be critical based on the pressure on the field schedule.

To meet the client’s timeline, we compiled field teams consisting of nearly 20 field technicians and archeologist from seven states and two operating groups that have completed pedestrian surveys over approximately 1,800 acres of land and nearly 18,000 shovel test pits. Much of the work was done through the cold Midwestern winter months and several extreme winter storms. In parallel with the field efforts, the Terracon teams have completed extensive literature and archival review as part of the preparation for Cultural Resource Reports that will be submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and local state and tribal historic preservations offices for review with the intention of obtain a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the USDA.

Through this collaborative effort Terracon has proven its ability to scale to the scope of work to complete the projects without affecting the client’s development schedule.

In the eyes of our clients, environmental constraints can be seen as a significant roadblock to the progress of a project. However, by employing the right people and the right strategies, the path to success will be secured based on the partnership with a firm that values hard work, innovative approaches, and a desire to succeed as an essential part of their project team.

Steve Kerlin

Steve Kerlin brings more than 15 years of consulting experience to Terracon’s Team related to development of community and utility scale solar projects.  Steve’s background managing environmental planning and due diligence related tasks for renewable projects across North America allows Terracon to broaden our support of early stage development and planning constraints during project origination and siting. 

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