Case study: Multi-faceted solar technologies bring complex brownfield site to life in New York

Amphenol Aerospace Operations, a division of Amphenol Corporation, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of interconnect products, providing the military, commercial aerospace and industrial markets with the cabling and connectors they need to operate. Located in Sidney, New York, the firm has a large presence in Delaware County, directly supporting more than 1,000 jobs in the Southern Tier region. In fall 2018, Amphenol Aerospace announced it would create a solar farm on top of a previous factory site. The resulting 6.3-MW project lowered Amphenol’s dependence on the local energy grid and turned a damaged site back into productive property.

The Amphenol land was a Department of Environmental Conservation–listed brownfield and had been a manufacturing site for 80 years. The manufacturing plant had also suffered significant damage during two major flooding events within the past decade. The flooding and environmental concerns made for a complex project, but it was one that EnterSolar was excited to take on as commercial project developer and EPC.

EnterSolar is also based in New York and works with corporations across the United States to deliver solar energy projects with compelling, long-term returns on investment. The company provides clients with actionable guidance to leverage tax credits and other financial incentives at federal, state and utility levels.

EnterSolar’s deep knowledge of the New York solar industry enabled the Amphenol project to utilize remote net metering and receive multiple incentives, including for developing solar on a brownfield site. The team also won a grant that had strict conditions for using local labor, ensuring that the surrounding communities benefitted from the work as well.

“EnterSolar was an ideal partner for our project,” said Ryan Fisher, General Manager of Amphenol Aerospace Operations. “The company’s understanding of the New York solar industry, coupled with its willingness to accommodate some very specific circumstances, meant that our project began and ended successfully. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but EnterSolar kept us on target the entire time.”

Overcoming a Complex Brownfield Site

Positive Energy’s Field Manager Ben Kratzert, and Solar FlexRack’s Field Engineer, Bobby Hrusovsky inspect CIP frames during construction at the Amphenol Aerospace Solar Plant in Sidney, New York.

The brownfield area offered several challenges for the development team. While Amphenol Aerospace had cleared the site of old manufacturing buildings, four concrete slab foundations remained. These slabs could not be completely penetrated, but the builders also needed to utilize the valuable real estate they occupied. Additionally, the regional government required that the solar project be built to 100-year-event flood standards, which ultimately resulted in an increased threshold for all of the solar panels. With both environmental concerns and floodplain conditions, a hybrid  racking solution was needed to support the entire system.

Solar FlexRack was selected to install the right combination of its Series B3X Cast-In-Place (CIP) and its G3P-X driven piles solution across the complex landscape. The flexible Series B CIP installs more quickly than other onsite ballast systems. It allows installers to easily level posts after forms are set and customize block sizes, both of which greatly reduce the number of components needed for installation. Positive Energy, the firm that conducted the mechanical installation, recommended Solar FlexRack for the job, partly for the racking company’s expertise and creative thinking on difficult sites and partly because its products are so easy to install.

Solar FlexRack needed to be careful not to breach the concrete slabs of the environmentally sensitive site and utilized a unique ballasted system wherever necessary, which was dowelled into the slabs beneath to help reduce concrete requirements. For the areas where the array was built over ground, without the concrete slabs underneath, the system incorporated a driven pile method. The hybrid racking system also utilized outside-the-box techniques like increasing length of the piles and switching up racking technologies.

“For this project, the embedment depth alone was 15.5 ft The majority of driven posts on standard projects are about 14 ft total,” said Steve Daniel, Executive Vice President of Solar FlexRack. “We compensated for extremely weak soils by going deeper, which required special equipment, and then had the additional issue of floodplain ground clearance. The total post length of these piles was 22 ft.”

The Right Racks

Positive Energy Solar installed 2.9 MW of Solar FlexRack’s driven posts for portions of the Amphenol Project.

Typically, solar sites use a single type of racking technology. Here, however, Solar FlexRack and its partners EnterSolar and Amphenol Aerospace needed to maximize land use, regardless of surface challenges. By using both driven piles and cast-in-place foundations, the Solar FlexRack team was able to accommodate the dynamic landscape.

“Solar FlexRack offers one of the broadest selections of racking solutions to meet site requirements both climatically and geographically. We have one of the most experienced services teams in the industry and we’ve built our business on ensuring our clients success,” said Daniel.

The creative use of technologies will ultimately provide Amphenol Aerospace with over 6 MW of solar energy, enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

“Solar FlexRack offered different design solutions that could work across our landscape, as well as a full spectrum of customer support to walk us through the racking installation process,” said Stephen Burns, Vice President of Project Management for EnterSolar. “The value Solar FlexRack offered was essential in creating a successful project for Amphenol.”

As owner of the project and the sole energy off-taker, Amphenol Aerospace’s concerns were financial as well as environmental. EnterSolar works relentlessly to stay up-to-date with solar legislative requirements and incentives, and understood the practices needed to help Amphenol maximize its profits.

“Solar FlexRack was critical in helping us achieve that rate of return. Their extensive experience gave us confidence in their abilities not only to tackle this project, but to deliver engineering, design and project services that helped to drive down costs and meet our schedule,” continued Burns. “Solar FlexRack was the only vendor that offered multiple options before the final purchase order to help guide our choices, and the firm’s efforts were very much appreciated.”

Approximately 3.4 MW of ballasted foundation was installed to support the Amphenol Solar Project.

Maximizing the Future

Amphenol Aerospace will use the energy produced from this site to provide clean solar power to its nearby plating facility. EnterSolar’s operations and maintenance arm, MaxSolar, will continue to manage the project for Amphenol, maintaining the system and optimizing its performance.

EnterSolar’s reputation in the industry is well-earned, and we at Solar FlexRack jumped at the opportunity to support them on this project,” said Daniel. “The firm’s focus on safety, ingenuity, and financial responsibility allowed the team to deliver exactly the right project for this site.”

The solar project was completed in the fall of 2019, transforming what would have been unusable land into a highly-productive, clean power generation plant. For Amphenol Aerospace and its neighbors, the future is sunnier than ever.


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