WSB recently partnered with a large energy contractor on the Old 300 Solar Center located in Fort Bend County, Texas. The project goal was to place solar arrays on 3,200 acres of land on the outskirts of Sugar Land, Texas. WSB performed surveying, hydrology, and civil design services for the contractor.
In February 2021, over 25 counties in Texas were affected by a severe winter storm that overwhelmed the state’s electricity infrastructure, causing massive power outages. Adding solar energy to Texas’s infrastructure with projects like Old 300 will better prepare the state for challenges created due to severe weather events by offering alternative energy sources. Just four years earlier, Hurricane Harvey hit states along the Gulf of Mexico, including the Houston area, causing catastrophic flooding in 2017. The hurricane overwhelmed 100-year floodplains that extend into the site.
Our team worked closely with county officials in the hydrology and civil design with these severe weather events in mind. We first performed a hydrology study on the project site to determine where to place solar arrays. The project site had numerous wetlands, along with three small creeks that flowed through the middle and on both sides of the site. The creeks presented a unique challenge; the project site had to be designed with a stormwater runoff system that would not raise water levels in the surrounding creeks. Water levels in the creeks are closely monitored by the county, and we partnered with local county staff to tailor drainage systems to their exact requirements. The analysis required modeling of inundation levels, flow velocities, and scour calculations, and mitigation strategies had to be designed for stormwater management. We also performed civil design including site grading for the solar arrays and access roads, and pile plan design. The solar arrays and associated equipment (transformers, substation) all had to be raised above 100-year flood levels.
The project was not without challenges including an accelerated timeline and other design constraints. Typically, 3,200 acres project of this scale would take 10-to-12 months to complete. Our team delivered the project in seven months. The large project site plus presence of wetlands and creeks also presented challenges in survey and design, and then construction.
The contractor now provides Fort Bend County and surrounding areas with access to an improved utility grid and a source for renewable solar energy. Residents can feel a new sense of security related to their electricity needs when faced with severe weather events.