Sustainability with Intent

May 16, 2023

Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Renewable Energy Projects

Continuous, improved performance doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a focused, intentional effort to achieve results. Terracon’s foundation practice, serving the U.S. power generation market has made sustainable design a priority. Design optimization in solar and electrical transmission tower foundations, and Terracon’s innovative suite of GripTerra wind foundation designs all share a common theme: reduction in materials and resources during construction. Reduced materials and less effort of construction equipment results in lower carbon emissions.

Renewable resources are essential in meeting our country’s energy demand, but doing so at the cost of sustainability and stewardship for our planet would be irresponsible. Therefore, we believe that an eye on sustainability sets us apart from our industry peers.

GripTerra Wind Foundations Do More with Much Less Materials and Labor

The future of wind turbine foundations lies in superior geodesign, not more concrete and steel. Our GripTerra wind foundations not only use less concrete, steel, and require less earthwork than traditional spread foot foundations, they’re also built with the forward-looking expectation of repowering. Our foundations are designed so that they can be utilized to support a larger wind turbine generator in the future. The pier and anchor foundations lend themselves to a wide variety of soil types, and each has distinct sustainability benefits:

Pier foundation                     Anchor foundation

60% less concrete                 60% less concrete

40% less steel                        70% less steel

80% less earthwork               No earthwork required

Translation: on a project of 100 turbines, GripTerra foundations remove more than 64 million tons of carbon and require only 1.7 million cubic yards of concrete to produce 4 billion kilowatt-hours of energy (as opposed to 6 million cubic yards for spread foot foundations). The benefits of GripTerra foundations are immediate and far-reaching.

Every Inch Matters in Solar Pile Installation

The key to a more sustainable solar foundation can be less than 12 inches. Reducing foundation embedment depths by 1 foot on a 250-megawatt solar project saves millions in steel costs alone. The sustainability impacts are even more profound considering everything it takes to produce that steel – from mining the iron ore, converting it to iron, then steel, its transportation during the manufacture and delivery process, and the hundreds of hours of labor to install thousands of piles. All told, that 1 foot reduction could reduce the carbon footprint by as much as 3 million tons of carbon dioxide.

We also implement new technology to better meet project needs while keeping a focus on sustainability. Our friction piledriver uses a proprietary analytical program to install piles with no soil disturbance, drilling, or excavation. And it only takes a three-person crew to operate. All these factors combine to decrease the carbon footprint.

Dedicated to Sustainability in All Energy Projects

Our focus on sustainability extends to transmission line projects, battery storage facilities, and other power generation pursuits. Our teams use tools including non-invasive geophysics and predictive analytics to explore project locations, reduce borings and groundwork, and allowing us to be more intentional about reducing effort (i.e., CO2) as well as minimizing environmental impacts while meeting our clients’ project goals.

Renewable energy will be at the forefront of meeting growing energy demand in the future. We’re dedicated to helping you deliver these essential projects in the most sustainable way possible.

Mark Underhill, LG, is the solar program manager for Terracon’s power generation and transmission sector and is responsible in overseeing the advancement of Terracon’s solar program services. He has 26 years of experience consulting on environmental projects and more than six years in project and program management in renewable energy (wind and solar) and transmission.

Find an office location

More than 175 offices from coast to coast.