This Friday, me and the rest of the Low-Energy Sustainable Farming Mountaintop Team saw our summer’s work begin to come to fruition. We arrived at the former soybean crop next to the Lehigh Community Garden to help with the installation of the solar panel racking system. This was an exciting day for us, seeing as it took two months of summer and part of the semester to get to this point!
Our group and our mountaintop advisors worked with TerraSmart, an outside company that specializes in solar panel racking systems, to put this thing together. The reason we chose TerraSmart is because they use groundscrews to secure the structure into the ground, as opposed to cement which can cause more environmental disruption. The groundscrews are about as tall as me and as thick as a coffee mug, and TerraSmart used a giant machine to spin them into the ground (it was really cool to watch).
They did not bring their “robot” to measure out the square distances needed for placing the groundscrews, so us students did it using string and tape measures…it took us around two hours. However, as pictured above, the structure looks pretty square and symmetrical right!?
The picture shows one of the racking systems, capable of holding 16 panels. Because TerraSmart usually does way bigger projects and had leftover material, they gave us enough material to build a second racking system capable of holding another 16 panels! So, we now have the capacity to hold 32 solar panels at the community garden, and once those panels are inserted a couple of weeks from now, we plan to continue to expand the system. The panels will connect to the grid to offset the electricity used to pump irrigation water from a well at the site.
The fact that we are installing solar panels on Lehigh’s campus is quite an exciting feat. Next I’ll be writing about the solar panel installation, so stay tuned!