Green energy, screw solar
Already the owner of four companies, including the aptly named Multi-Task Contracting, Casey van Maarion is now focusing his attention on ground screws. Made by the Prague-based Bayo.S, the galvanized-steel screws, which come in various lengths, are proving popular in Alberta, where solar is hotter than ever.
Recently, the Alberta government created a $36-million solar rebate program for residential homeowners and businesses, which in turn should create about 900 solar-related jobs in the province by 2019, including the one already taken by van Maarion with Bayo.S.
So, what’s the connection between a ground screw and solar panels? Unlike conventional concrete footings or even helical piles, which require a drill truck to install, ground screws go in with a Hilti drill attached to a mini-excavator. “It takes me 15 minutes to put a screw into the ground,” says van Maarion.
So, what’s the solar connection? For starters, the panels are heavy, expensive, and need to withstand high winds. “These ground screws can hold up to 60,000 pounds, and if a panel ever needs to be removed, we can simply unscrew it from the ground,” says van Maarion. “With solar panels, there needs to be very little movement. We tested these screws with panels in 90-mile-an-hour winds, and they stacked up just fine.”
There’s also no environmental impact. Because they go in using friction, just like a normal screw, all that’s required is the right amount of torque. “If we hit a rock, we just drill an oversized hole, fill it with soil, and reinstall the screw,” says van Maarion. No concrete, no rock removal; “it’s very adaptable.”
The screws come in different sizes, and can be extended if they need to go deeper. “In B.C., we can put a 4-ft. screw in and we’re good; in Alberta, we need to go 9-ft. deep because all of our thread needs to be below frost so they don’t heave,” says van Maarion. “We just did a project that required going 16-ft. deep.”
While he can’t go into details on the projects he’s working on, van Maarion said he’s currently working with about $110-million in solar-related quotes. “I’ve put a pause on most of my other work,” he says. “I still do commercial decks for hotels and restaurants, and I’m still in the stone manufacturing business. I can just be more selective of my jobs now,” he adds