Moapa, Nev. | 200 MW solar + 375 MWh storage
The Solar Builder Utility-Scale Project of the Year Award winner, as voted on by our readers, is the Arrow Canyon Solar and Battery Energy Storage System.
The Arrow Canyon project is a 200 MW solar array and 375 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) located in Moapa, Nevada, within the Mojave Desert. Developed by EDF Renewables with McCarthy Building Companies serving as the EPC and installer, this system serves the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians Reservation, about 20 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Completed in December 2022, Arrow Canyon is a 1,387-acre facility brought to life through the partnership between McCarthy and EDF Renewables. The project can generate enough power to meet the needs of up to 76,000 Nevada homes. Arrow Canyon boasts a capacity of 275 MWdc with a 75 MW/375 MWh dc-coupled BESS component to capture additional power.
The local utility was interested in adding 450 MW worth of renewables to its portfolio, and the Arrow Canyon project helped meet that goal, said Ryan Tran, senior project engineering and construction manager for EDF Renewables.
“There was quite a bit of appetite from Nevada Energy to meet their renewable portfolio, and then the inclusion of BESS was an adder to the development of this project. Originally, it was just going to be solar, and then with the battery technology becoming what it is nowadays, we were able to add that to their portfolio.”
During development, EDF worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Moapa Tribe. Tran says there was a lot of “contention for building on their property,” but the project team met with the community leaders to overcome those challenges.
“It was a rough beginning,” Tran says. “But after the assessment meetings with them and all the commitments that we were providing to them and their needs, they eventually bought into what we were planning to achieve.”
This was the first project that Tran had been a part of working with a Native American tribal community, and he describes the project as an “extensive learning experience for EDF.”
McCarthy, on the other hand, has partnered with tribes on several projects throughout the United States, says Jared Carlson, senior VP of operations for McCarthy. However, this was the first time that the company worked with the Moapa Tribe, which is located close to McCarthy’s Nevada office.
Empowering the Moapa
In addition to providing renewable energy to the Moapa Tribe, Carlson says the project benefited the community — and Nevada as a whole — in other ways too.
Arrow Canyon employed more than 450 dedicated team members, including 46 members of the Moapa Tribe. McCarthy approached this project as an opportunity for tribal members to become fully integrated workforce members who were directly involved, employed and integrated throughout the project lifecycle. Tribal members were provided on-the-job training to aid in the development of skills and expertise for long-term career opportunities in Nevada’s rapidly expanding solar industry.
“As we built the project, what would typically be sales tax that would go to the government goes to the tribe to benefit them,” Carlson says. “And then the employment of the tribal members during the project is a really great impact. We employed 46 members of the tribe throughout the project, and 35% of those were women, which was excellent to have that diversity.”
Carlson also mentions the lease of the land as another benefit to the Moapa throughout the life of the project.
EDF also employed tribal liaisons during the project to ensure there were no conflicts between the tribe and the union workforce on the jobsite, Tran adds.
“I know on other sites from stories that the tribe members would tell me is they were never treated as equals when it came to the work,” Tran says. “By having these tribal liaisons, I think we eliminated that factor altogether because if there were any issues between the two, we would always be able to sit down and communicate. I think the system that we had for this project was very successful.”
Working in the Mojave Desert means working in extreme temperatures.
“You have got freezing temperatures in the winter, and then in the summer you push over 110 degrees,” Carlson says. “The impact is even greater when you are doing some of the activities like the installation of solar modules, and how the sun reflects off those panels causes the impact of the heat to be an even larger challenge.”
McCarthy put several measures in place to safeguard its workforce and ensure they stayed cool and hydrated, providing breaks and shade areas on the jobsite to help mitigate the heat.
Helping the tortoises
Arrow Canyon was designed to minimize environmental impact. Despite the harsh climate of the Mojave Desert, the federally protected desert tortoise can be found here. Prior to starting construction, the team fenced off 1,800 acres of land where biologists located 12 tortoises, which were removed and relocated for the duration of the project.
Another priority for the team was to minimize soil disturbance. The installation of solar panels required temporarily flattening vegetation on site. This was done in a way that preserved the plants’ root structures and minimized ground disturbance as much as possible to facilitate faster regrowth of the tortoises’ habitat.
EDF takes the topic of wildlife protection seriously, Tran says. During construction, a dozen tortoises were relocated, and the 1,800-acre site was fenced in to protect the wildlife. Biologists monitored the site 24/7 to ensure the safety of the tortoises. However, the site is designed to accommodate the tortoises during operations too.
“We talk about the tortoise fence, but the site is basically complete at this point, and the fences have been removed,” Tran says. “We will install a permanent fence that is designed to allow these tortoises to move about as if the solar farm isn’t even there.”
During construction, the project team ensured that trash was kept to a minimum and prevented any excess water on site from puddling.
“If you have water puddling, it attracts the tortoises,” Tran says. “And then if we attract the tortoises, then there’s crows, and there’s the potential of them harming the tortoises.”
The team had daily meetings to discuss schedule, quality and safety, all of which contributed to the project finishing on time. Quality meetings encouraged collaboration and problem-solving, allowing for the project to be completed with minimal punch list items.
When items did not meet quality standards or were broken in shipping, McCarthy recycled panels with Green Earth Recycle, a company that recycles, repurposes, and reinvents modules to save waste and reuse the panel’s valuable materials.
Safety meetings allowed the team to truly commit to growing a culture of safety. To ensure accountability across the board, the team created a fun, yet competitive, environment where they paired project management with site superintendents to conduct ongoing safety inspections. These partnerships allowed team members to leverage and learn from the expertise of their peers.
Carlson credits the collaboration between McCarthy, EDF and the Moapa Tribe for the success of the Arrow Canyon project.
“I think it starts with partnership, the alignment that both companies and the tribe had,” Carlson says. “We considered it as a three-way partnership from the very beginning.”
The companies conducted “partnering sessions” to go over all aspects of the project management, including jobsite safety, quality, commissioning, and procurement, and to anticipate potential challenges.
“That helped set the tone right at the beginning,” Carlson says. “That way, we have the same goals in mind, and we want this project to be successful. It’s about that partnership, so when those struggles come up, of maybe a procurement delay or whatever the challenges, then we can remember that we’re on the same team, we’ve got the same goals, but more so we can rely on those relationships that are going to see us through whatever challenge comes.”
Tran adds that the partnership between the three parties helped facilitate communications across the board.
“Going with a partnering relationship allowed us to have this kind of open-door policy between the three groups,” Tran says. “I don’t think we ever had an issue with the transparency between EDF, the tribe, and McCarthy.”
If any of the three partners had an issue during the project, Tran says EDF was always willing to host a meeting to work things out.
“We were always willing to listen,” Tran says. “I think a lot of challenges I’ve seen with different contractors is that they’re not willing to communicate with us. They’re not willing to share their challenges. I think McCarthy understood that from the very beginning, that we were always willing to be on the same page and work with them to get the project done right.”