Technical construction management for renewable energy projects: the XXL solar park

09 Jul 2024
STRABAG has built a huge photovoltaic park in eastern Styria. Here, the technical project construction managers Lukas Jandl (civil engineering) and Christian Prem (electrical engineering) talk about their work on this special project: highlights, challenges and how they are driving the change towards more sustainable construction.

STRABAG has built one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) plants in Austria on behalf of Wien Energie, the largest we have ever realized. With an area of 14 hectares, the PV park in the municipality of Ratten measures around 20 soccer pitches. Thanks to the enormous output of this plant, 5,000 households can be supplied with electricity every year. For more details on the project, click here.

Lukas and Christian, you were the technical project managers for this PV park. What excites you about your work at STRABAG?
Lukas Jandl (Civil Engineering): I think it's great to have so much variety, from wind farms to PV parks. There are always new projects that I get involved in and that keeps it exciting for me.
Christian Prem (Electrical Engineering): I also enjoy the variety and the challenges that each new project area brings with it. Implementing the whole thing, learning new things and building something that hasn't been done before is definitely the big attraction for me.

So, what were your individual tasks in this project?
Lukas: I was involved right from the start when it came to costing and also in project management. Who took on which tasks evolved over time. From planning to execution, we divided the tasks between us. Of course, there were also clear tasks depending on the area.
Christian: There are core topics in civil engineering and electrical engineering. Then there are questions about materials, for example: What material do we use? How do we dig it in? And how do we connect it? We provide great support and complement each other on topics like these.

Certainly there were special challenges when building such a large photovoltaic system. Which ones were they and how did you overcome them?
Lukas: We faced a range of challenges. Starting with the delivery and logistics on a 10-kilometer forest road that is only 3.5 meters wide. Between 40 and 50 trucks came to our site via this road. It was not easy to coordinate the logistics.
Christian: Setting up the transformer stations in the middle of the slope was also no mean feat.
Lukas: Ploughing two kilometers downhill in stony terrain with slopes of up to 45 degrees, there was a lot to master and we were able to solve and implement everything together. Not only thanks to our experience, but also thanks to the good and reliable network on site and generally at STRABAG, with whom we could always consult, everything worked out.
Christian: I think resilience as a character trait is also very important.
Lukas: And most standard construction projects can be mastered well through routines. With our projects, we always have to find new routines first.
Christian: What we have learned, our experience from the PV park, also helps us to solve challenges in the current project.

What skills and expertise were most important for the PV park project to succeed?
Lukas: The most important thing was definitely the ability to work in a team, otherwise the project would not have been possible. Everyone involved was able to work well together.
Christian: We all have our areas of expertise. Lukas is great at civil engineering, my expertise is in electrical engineering. Because we complement each other so well, we implemented the project successfully.

  • Mutual trust is very important. I know exactly that the others know what they are doing and vice versa. We support each other when there are bottlenecks.

    Lukas Jandl
    Technical Project Manager, Civil Engineering

Christian: Exactly, if someone didn't have time to finish something, someone else stepped in and took over.
Lukas: The learning effect is also incredibly great. I've learned a lot from electrical engineering and I think the reverse is also true.
Christian: Definitely.

What was your personal highlight of the project?
Christian: My highlight was the commissioning of the PV system. Part of the wind farm was switched off and then switched on. And we put the partial systems into operation. For me personally, it was a major milestone to implement the project and learn a lot of new things in the process.
Lukas: I agree, it was a huge milestone to complete the whole thing at the end of 2023, despite the snow and the weather in general. We sometimes trudged around in deep snow with snowshoes. Reaching our goal with power and passion was a really good feeling.

And how did things continue for you after this project?
Lukas: We work together on the renewable energy projects. Apart from that, we each have other ongoing projects, Christian in electrical engineering and me in civil engineering.
Christian: We have a few more employees in the project team who support us and with whom we also share our expertise.

To what extent are you helping to drive the change towards more sustainable construction and a more sustainable society with your activities?
Christian: We are building the conditions for renewable energy.
Lukas: Of course, we are also building as sustainably as possible and had also used an electric excavator, for example. That went well because we had a power connection at every wind turbine. In the current PV project in Theresienfeld, where we have no infrastructure, we are also feeding the containers via a rooftop PV system. Whenever possible, we choose sustainable methods or alternatives.

And finally: What does Work On Progress mean to you?
Lukas: For me, working on progress means working together as a team to seize the opportunity to build more sustainably and differently. Change, progress and transformation are the essence of time. You shouldn't see this as a burden, but as an opportunity!
Christian: For me, the project is a prime example of how we literally work on progress.
Lukas: And I think it's great that STRABAG has placed its trust in us and is allowing us to immerse ourselves in new areas of business. New challenges simply keep the job fun.

  • Anyone who feels up to it should apply to us. We are a growing industry and a growing company, so we are always looking for motivated young people and anyone with experience!

    Christian Prem
    Technical Project Manager, Electrical Engineering