Nations are racing to increase renewable energy production and the United States in no different. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy production doubled between 2000 – 2020. While wind turbines and solar fields seem to pop up overnight, there is immense preparation before they are established. Part of this preparation is a site investigation to understand what soil conditions exist and what mitigation efforts need to be taken to support the construction of these massive structures and the equipment access to transport and construct them.
This is where cone penetration testing (CPT) comes in. CPT can help identify potential weak spots in the sediment deposits that could lead to slope failure, such as equipment or foundations in non-cohesive materials. By identifying potential problems in advance, engineers can take steps to correct them and ensure that the entire project is a success.
Use of CPT in Clean Energy
CPT is a type of soil testing that involves using a conical-tipped probe to measure the resistance of soil during penetration. CPT is used extensively in the evaluation of soil for clean energy projects. It is used to study the seismic shear wave impact of earthquakes in soil and evaluate the strength and stability of earth structures and dams.
Additionally, CPT can be used to assess the suitability of sediments for the installation of wind turbines and solar panels, as well as the strength of the soil where heavy equipment such as cranes need to travel. Ensuring that the soil is suitable for these installations can be critical to their longevity and potentially reduce risk and costs incurred due to unstable soil conditions or failures. CPT is an efficient and cost-effective subsurface investigation method to ensure a high-resolution site characterization.
CPT is an essential tool for assessing soil suitability for clean energy projects. Typically, CPT investigations for wind energy systems can help to ensure that the foundations are adequately designed for the existing sediment. CPT data is also leveraged to build temporary roadways capable of supporting the weight of turbines and cranes. Given the large swaths of land used for wind turbines, Vertek’s CPT trucks are perfect for maximizing production.
As part of the design or pre-construction phase of a wind turbine project, CPT can help ensure that selected wind turbines are constructed to minimize the risk of foundation failure. It can also help identify areas where the combination of sediment type and groundwater may need to be considered. Utilizing Standard Penetration Testing (SPT) technologies may miss these subsurface zones leading to additional maintenance or construction costs down the road. Overall, CPT site investigations can better inform the design and construction saving money and schedule for a project.
CPT is a valuable tool that can assess the soil properties at a spot where solar energy technology is being considered. CPT can help inform solar designers determine the suitability of a location for this technology by providing information on the soil strength, moisture content, and density.
CPT operators investigating solar sites which are often shallow investigations on undeveloped sites prefer a modular system like Vertek’s S4 CPT Sounding System. The S4 push frame can be attached to various types of standard construction equipment and shipped between job sites with other construction equipment. The S4’s modularity, size, and power are perfect for accessing challenging terrain with existing construction equipment.
CPT Supporting Renewable Energy Infrastructure
The U.S. Energy Information Administration “projects that the share of renewables in the U.S. electricity generation mix will increase from 21% in 2020 to 42% in 2050.” This will require an enormous expansion of renewable energy infrastructure that will require high resolution and efficient subsurface investigations. Engineering and construction firms’ number one goal is to mitigate risk and with Vertek CPT systems, you can deliver the data they need to reduce their project design and construction risk.