Central 40 Protects the Environment with more than Renewable Energy

The Central 40 solar project is under construction and near completion in Stanislaus County, California. The 50.3 MWdc project includes 131,776 solar modules and a 35.5 kV/115 kV step-up collector substation. Project leader Swinerton Renewables chose Blymyer Engineers to the design the project. Central 40 is environmentally friendly in more ways than power generation. The substation portion of the project also includes features that reduce light pollution and protect birds.

Alexey Kondrashov, a senior electrical engineer at Blymyer and a key contributor to the substation design, explains: “California has strict environmental guidelines for projects. The goal is to minimize the impact of development on the environment. These include general requirements that apply to all projects and others which are project-specific.”

“We included design elements that prevent light trespass and skyglow from the substation,” he says. “That involves features that reduce light spilling onto other properties as well as into the night sky. Virtually all projects in California have similar requirements. Central 40 also included avian protection features specific to this project.”

Protecting the environment
Substations can sometimes attract birds and other animals looking for good places to nest. Fencing helps protect substations from flightless animals—and the animals from the substations. But fencing doesn’t work for birds. Blymyer included features in the design that keep birds off of equipment. These features can provide greater protection for birds and equipment than other approaches, such as noisemakers and other deterrents.

To reduce light pollution, Blymyer started by performing a photometric study. Blymyer used the results to determine the light fixture mounting angle and the extent of shielded lighting needed. Lights point into, rather than away from, the substation. It adds up to sufficient lighting for workers at the site, but almost no light spills to adjoining parcels even on dark nights.

“Renewable energy projects like Central 40 have an obvious positive impact on the environment,” says Blymyer President Mike Rantz. “But what’s not always so obvious is the way projects are designed to project the environment beyond reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Central 40 provides a good example of the ways we routinely design to minimize impacts.”

About Swinerton Renewable Energy
Swinerton Renewable Energy (SRE) offers engineering, procurement, construction, and SOLV® services for solar photovoltaic plants throughout North America to a diverse range of clients. With over 125 years of building landmark projects, Swinerton has forged a reputation for unsurpassed safety, workmanship, on-time delivery, and customer satisfaction. Learn more about Swinerton Renewable Energy at swinertonrenewable.com.