GPRS Conducts Utility Locating Services for Six Flags Solar Project

GPRS Conducts Utility Locating Services for Six Flags Solar Project

GPRS continues to help ensure the safe construction of the largest renewable energy installation in California history.

GPRS Project Managers have made several trips to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles, where Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is constructing a 12.37-megawatt solar carport and energy storage system in partnership with Solar Optimum and DSD Renewables.

In a press release announcing the project’s official groundbreaking, Six Flags said that the project will rank as the largest single-site commercial renewable energy project in California and the largest solar project allocated toward a for-profit organization in the United States.

“We’re thrilled to be breaking ground on this monumental project and taking the next step towards a cleaner, greener future,” said Six Flags Magic Mountain Interim Park President, Jeff Harris. “We’re continuing to make advancements towards improving and protecting the environment, and are honored to be industry leaders, paving the way for other theme park companies around the world…”

A project rendering of a solar carport at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
(Photo courtesy of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation) A project rendering of the Six Flags Magic Mountain solar carport project.

Powering Up – Safely

About 4,243 billion kWh of electricity was generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration.

About 22% (913 billion kWh) of this electricity generation was from renewable energy sources, which is about 2% more than in 2021. The EIA estimates that in 2024, renewables will make up 26% of our electricity generation.

Before any renewable energy project can get off the ground, however, proper precautions must be taken to ensure that installation can occur without damaging existing utilities or other subsurface objects.

GPRS Project Manager Vincent Lopez is one of the PMs conducting utility locating services at Magic Mountain in preparation for the installation of the solar array. The contractor needs to conduct directional boring to run conduit to connect the array to the park’s infrastructure, and they also need to pour footings to support the structure.

“They just wanted me to check the area, to see if there were any utilities that might be in the way,” Lopez explained. “They just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything that was going to get hit during the boring and excavation.”

GPRS Project Managers rely on Subsurface Investigation Methodology, or SIM, to guide them while conducting utility locates, precision concrete scanning and imaging, and video pipe inspections. SIM is the industry-leading training program and specification for subsurface investigation and requires that professional utility locating companies utilize multiple technologies and a repeatable process to ensure a redundant confirmation of results.

GPRS primarily uses two technologies when locating utilities: ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locating.

GPR is a non-invasive method that detects and visualizes objects beneath the surface, whether buried underground or embedded in structures like concrete.

The technology operates by transmitting radio waves into a structure and analyzing how these waves interact with subsurface features, encompassing both metallic and non-metallic materials. These interactions, often called "bounces," are captured by the GPR system and presented as hyperbolic patterns on a display, varying in size and shape according to the materials encountered.

Trained utility locating experts, such as GPRS’ SIM-certified Project Managers (PMs) and Area Managers (AMs), are adept at interpreting these patterns to identify the type of utilities or obstructions present and ascertain their approximate depths.

Unlike GPR scanning, EM locators do not directly locate buried pipes or cables. Instead, they detect the electromagnetic signals that emanate from metallic pipes and cables.

These signals might be generated when the locator's transmitter induces a current in the pipe, or they could come from the natural current flow within an active electrical cable. Signals can also be emitted from conductive pipes that act as antennas, picking up and re-radiating stray electrical fields (detected in Power Mode by the EM locator) and signals from communications transmissions (detected in Radio Mode).

Screenshot of utility mapping data from SiteMap®.
GPRS Project Managers conducted utility locating services at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles, where construction is underway on a 12.37-megawatt solar carport and energy storage system. The data collected on site was uploaded into SiteMap® (patent pending), our cloud-based infrastructure mapping software solution.

At Six Flags, Lopez first swept the area with his EM locator before verifying his findings with GPR scanning. In less than a day, he was able to clear the contractor’s desired boring paths and the other areas where excavation was going to occur, ensuring this high-profile renewable energy project could stay on time, on budget, and safe.

“We felt confident after locating everything with the EM locator, and I ran the GPR just to double check the whole area,” Lopez said.

As with every utility locating job GPRS completes, the data collected at Six Flags was instantly uploaded into SiteMap® (patent pending), our cloud-based infrastructure mapping software solution which allows for easy, yet secure access to this vital utility mapping information 24/7 from any computer, tablet, or smartphone.

All GPRS clients receive a complimentary SiteMap® Personal subscription when we perform a utility locate for them. With all your field-verified infrastructure data at your fingertips, SiteMap® allows you and your team to plan, design, dig, manage, and build better.

GPRS’ SiteMap® team members are currently scheduling live, personal SiteMap® demos. Click below to sign up for yours today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does GPRS offer same-day private utility locating?

Yes, our professional Project Managers can respond rapidly to emergency same-day private utility locating service calls on your job site. In most cases, we can be on site within 24-48 hours.

How accurate are the results of ground penetrating radar scanning?

While accuracy depends on various external factors such as ground and soil conditions, the Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM) standard ensures that we can obtain the best results possible in each situation.

Through experience, we’ve found that when using a concrete antenna for scanning concrete, the accuracy is typically +/- ¼” to the center of the object and +/- ½” to the actual depth. When locating an object underground using a utility locating antenna for scanning, the accuracy is +/- 6” to the center and +/- 10% to the actual depth.

The results of the concrete antenna are generally higher resolution and therefore considered to produce better quality results. However, the concrete antenna cannot penetrate the ground as deeply as the utility locating antenna. It is critical to understand the benefits and limitations of both when performing scanning work.

GPRS Project Managers use electromagnetic (EM) locating to compliment GPR and ensure you receive the most accurate infrastructure data possible.