August Mack Newsletter | February, 2019

Behind the Scenes of the Development of a Utility-Scale Solar Farm
by Kent Johnson

It has been over six years since August Mack was involved in the development of the first utility-scale solar farm on a former Superfund site in the United States. Dubbed the Maywood Solar Farm, the 10.86 Megawatt farm sits on 43 acres at the former Reilly Tar & Chemical site in Indianapolis, Indiana.  August Mack assisted Hanwha Q CELLS USA (HQC) with U.S. EPA negotiations and IDEM negotiations, permitting, documenting current site conditions, and developing the civil design for the site. August Mack’s involvement with the site stems back to 1999, when they were contracted to clean-up the site, which included placement of a permeable soil cover as well as soil vapor and groundwater extraction systems.  The design for this development included pile foundations that would provide stability for the solar panels while minimizing disturbance of the underlying liner and soils. Design services included the site grading plan, storm water controls, and identification of existing utilities and buildings that would ultimately be removed from the site. August Mack also provided health and safety and civil construction oversight during the field portion of the project.  

The development of the Maywood Solar Farm was an innovative way to repurpose old industrial sites and as the demand and incentives for renewable sources of energy continues, many could benefit from understanding the environmental perspective of how renewable energy projects are completed. In March, August Mack will be giving a webinar on what takes place behind the scenes of these developments – long before wind turbines are spinning or before solar cells are soaking up the power of the sun. 

Site selection is typically the first step of a renewable energy project and this can often start years before construction begins.  Once a site is identified, a developer will conduct environmental assessments, resource assessments, siting activities, obtain permits and perform transmission studies.  Unlike traditional commercial developments, this process can take place over a period of several years as developers navigate a balancing act between natural resource considerations, human impacts, and the ability to generate and deliver power.   This is especially true for wind farms who often occupy larger tracks of land with multiple land owners.

Once the right site is found, the next step will be to ensure the development is permitted in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.  Permitting one of these projects is usually governed by the laws of the local and state jurisdictions where the project is located, unless the facility will be located on land owned or managed by the federal government.  In most instances, these developments occur on undeveloped land which can lend itself to further siting activities as developers must deal with evaluating the developments impact to the environment (ecological, cultural, noise, etc).

We invite you to join us on March 27, 2019 as we discuss where we will discuss these steps in further details and share our insights from the Maywood Solar Farm development and other renewable energy developments we have been involved in – from small scale solar projects to large-scale wind farms on large land tracks.


Kent Johnson is the Transaction Program Development Manager with August Mack Environmental, Inc. in the Indianapolis office. He has more than 20 years experience with extensive knowledge regarding Brownfield site investigation and remediation, Phase II subsurface investigation, Underground Storage Tank (UST) removal and closure, groundwater monitoring sampling programs, asbestos and lead investigations and management, as well as indoor air quality investigations. Kent can be reached at 317.916.3177 or via e-mail at kjohnson@augustmack.com.


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