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Geotechnical Analysis and PV Foundation Design

Geotechnical Analysis and PV Foundation Design

By: Bob Donaldson, Vice President, AquaSoli, LLC and David Brearley, Senior Technical Editor, SolarPro magazine

Inadequate site assessments can lead to overengineered and unnecessarily expensive foundations. Worse, they can lead to costly foundation failures.

Reprint from SolarPro Magazine May/June 2015.

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Bob Donaldson
Bob Donaldson

Vice President, AquaSoli, LLC

Bob Donaldson is Vice President and project manager of U.S. operations for AquaSoli, LLC. Since 2003 AquaSoli has completed 10GW of solar-specific geotechnical foundation design, risk assessment and foundation failure remediation. In the past two years, Donaldson worked on over half a Gigawatt of solar site assessment, risk evaluation and design reports for projects up to 90MW.

Previously, as senior applications engineer for PanelClaw, a major solar racking company, Donaldson contributed to design and developed the foundation strategies for a new ground mount system. He successfully repurposed the company’s ballasted product and marketed it for landfill and brownfield applications. In addition, he innovated deployment and layout strategies for both roof and ground mount products, and improved project capture by applying remote site assessment and terrain analysis to bid package layouts and estimates.

As a former associate for Savin Engineers, PC and a hydrogeologist and engineer for Malcolm Pirnie, Donaldson has 11 years of experience completing site assessments, remedial design and construction, and gas-to-energy projects on landfills, brownfields and hazardous waste sites.

Donaldson was a presenter at PV America 2014. His topic addressed the advantages of integrating solar specific geotech and foundation design into project planning, rack selection, civil design, quality assurance/quality control and operations and maintenance. This strategy of geotechnical ground component integration is a major opportunity to proactively drive risk and cost out of ground mount solar while increasing performance and protecting long term investment. For existing projects, geotechnical risk assessment and mitigation is critical to investors, financers and insurance providers because 60 percent of a project’s value is at risk from potential foundation failures.

Donaldson earned a B.A. in Geology from Dartmouth College and a B.E. in Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.

David Brearley

Senior Technical Editor, SolarPro magazine