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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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Solar Energy Construction: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Construction of a solar energy project would affect most of the project area.

Construction would affect most of the project area and includes activities such as clearing and grading; construction of access roads and on-site roads and parking lots; preparation and use of material and equipment laydown areas; installation of solar collectors; construction of the electrical substation, central control facility, and ancillary facilities; installation of power and signal cables (typically buried or vaulted), and construction of off-site pipelines and transmission lines. Concrete ingredients (sand, aggregate) may also need to be extracted and hauled to the site. Construction laydown areas would generally be located within the project site.

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur at a solar energy project and whether it would be considered an adverse effect.

  • Acreage – Construction of a solar energy project would impact hundreds to thousands of acres in order to install all of the structures and ancillary components needed to operate the facility and to provide a fairly level project area. Construction of a gas or water pipeline could impact about 6 acres per mile (for a 50 foot wide right-of-way), while a 150-foot wide corridor for a transmission line could affect up to 18 acres per mile.
  • Emissions – Construction activities would produce fugitive dust emissions, vehicular and equipment emissions (including diesel generators used to supply power), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from storage and use of fuels for equipment.
  • Waste Generation – Wastes produced would include industrial wastes routinely associated with industrial facility construction activities (waste oils, lubricants, and coolants from the on-site maintenance of construction vehicles and equipment, spent solvents, cleaning agents, paints and other corrosion control coatings applied to structures, and small amounts of wastewater from cleaning operations); solid wastes (containers, dunnage, and packaging materials for solar system components and miscellaneous wastes associated with assembly activities).
  • Water Needs – Construction activities would require water for fugitive dust control, making concrete, potable water for construction crew, and fire contingency supply.
  • Workforce – Workforce size varies ranging from less than 100 to as high as hundreds of individuals during peak period of construction. Typically, none of the workforce would reside on site, but minimal support facilities might be required for weather contingencies. Several hundred workers would be required to construct pipelines; transmission line construction could require a workforce of about 20 to 100 individuals, depending upon the line length.
  • Time – Construction of a large solar development would normally require about two to four years. Construction could occur in phases, so that the operational phase for a completed portion of the project could be initiated while construction proceeds elsewhere within the project site. A pipeline or transmission line could take several months or more to construct, primarily depending on its length.
  • Utility Requirements – Electrical power needs would be met by use of portable generators. Water required during construction would be trucked to the site.