Commercial solar farms are becoming a common sight in Massachusetts. Western Earthworks, led by Jack Henderson-Adams, is a site preparation and excavating contractor that’s clearing the way for solar farm expansion.
Jack and his employees operate heavy equipment to prepare the land for new solar farms. The company’s wheel loaders, excavators and articulated dump trucks (ADTs) perform tasks in five stages.
Stage 1: Clear the land.
To get to the work area, employees build an access road using an excavator and a harvesting head attachment.
Once there, the excavator continues removing trees and stacks them. It also extracts tree stumps using a bucket and thumb in tandem.
“The dangle head hangs and swings from the excavator’s quick coupler,” Jack says. “It’s paired with a bucket-thumb combo, which allows us to fell and buck the wood on-site.”
A second excavator with a grapple feeds stacked trees into a horizontal grinder. After the wood is processed, an ADT transports the organic material to areas around the jobsite.
Stage 2: Perform erosion control.
Western Earthworks employees take care to avoid disturbing the vegetation near the future solar farm.
“Working near wetlands in Massachusetts, we face strict guidelines and regulations,” Jack says. “Some of these wetland areas in our projects are fragile. We need to approach them as such.”
Western Earthworks recycles many of the former trees as erosion control material. This helps minimize runoff from the jobsite to nearby areas.
“We strive to become a leader in this field,” Jack says. “We welcome the challenge. Although these challenges can make our job difficult at times, it is 100% there for our future. And it’s for the well-being of our ecosystems that we work around.”
Stage 3: Blast the rock.
The firm routinely encounters tough ledge rock. When it does, employees work with blasting professionals to remove it.
A Doosan DX350LC-5 excavator places large mats to cover the blast area. After the blast, the excavator operator moves the mats and stacks them next to the blasting area.
Then, the excavator builds a path over the blasted ledge rock. This allows other heavy equipment to access parts of the jobsite.
Stage 4: Move dirt.
Once employees clear the trees and stumps, they move on to excavating and grading. This includes making cuts and fills, as well as dispersing topsoil on-site. The company’s Doosan wheel loader is particularly useful for this part of the project.
Another Doosan excavator digs trenches in the area for the underground utilities. In some cases, this may entail trenching thousands of feet to support the solar farm utilities.
“The DX235LCR-5 excavator’s zero tail swing is great for digging around panels and racking,” Jack says.
Stage 5: Pour concrete.
Next, Western Earthworks pours concrete to support the solar farm panels. The last step includes hydroseeding the area. Some of the company’s projects require hydroseeding as much as 550,000 square feet of ground for erosion control purposes.
“As a business owner, you have to get comfortable operating in a day-to-day environment that can be very uncomfortable at times,” Jack says.
Dive into the efficient features of the Doosan DX235LCR-5 crawler excavator used in this project.
"Working near wetlands in Massachusetts, we face strict guidelines and regulations,” he says. “Some of these wetland areas in our projects are fragile. We need to approach them as such."