Smart Construction solutions, iMC help Castle’s Renewable Energy Division move earth faster with decreased costs
The company known today simply as Castle was originally founded as Progressive Pipeline in 1999 by Mike Castle Sr. His business focused on providing service to the oil and gas industry with jobs done with integrity, on time and on budget. That strategy proved highly successful, and within three years, the company landed its first multimillion-dollar contract, which led to the creation of more divisions within the firm.
In addition to Pipeline, Castle’s divisions now include an Integrity Group, a Facility Group, Directional Drilling, Environmental Reclamation, and its latest undertaking: Renewable Energy, which focuses on sitework and other services for wind and solar projects.
“Castle saw the transition to renewables and wanted to be a part of that,” said Vice President Chris Scheve, who joined the company about a year ago and has helped spearhead the formation and expansion of the Renewable Energy Division. “With our skilled workforce and our equipment, it’s a nice fit to move over and do the renewables effort.”
Joel Brewton, Vice President of Asset Management & Centralized Services, added, “Outstanding service is our hallmark, and that’s really built around doing things safely and efficiently. We believe that goes hand in hand with delivering solid production. We are always seeking ways to improve our practices. Technology — such as the Komatsu Smart Construction machinery and solutions we now use — is playing an increasingly bigger role for us because we see the benefits it is delivering in terms of cost and time savings.”
Brewton and Scheve emphasized that the two large solar projects that Castle’s Renewable Energy Division recently took on in Wisconsin are prime examples. About a year ago, Castle began site preparation, including putting the sites to grade, building basins, and handling erosion control. Between the two, Castle team members moved about 700,000 yards of dirt.
“Our Onion River project, which is the bigger of the two, involved about 18 different sites, so it was pretty spread out,” explained Superintendent Rocky Hartwick. “We started in July and had the mass grading done by the end of the year. Our Crawfish River project began earlier, and the grading was basically done within a relatively short timeframe.”
Hartwick continued, “These projects were our first ones using Komatsu’s intelligent machines, and we were very impressed with the ability to use the integrated GPS from grass to grade. Using traditional methods, we cut approximately two acres to grade each day. Komatsu’s intelligent machines allowed us to do 10 to 12 acres without the need for a grade checker because the machines always know where they are in relation to final grade. The accuracy and efficiency are spot on.”
Using Smart Construction solutions
Throughout the projects, Castle has used Komatsu intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozers and excavators, as well as Smart Construction Drone, Smart Construction Dashboard and Smart Construction Remote. Castle also purchased its own drone, and staff members received training from Komatsu, so they could conduct flights independently.
“Komatsu corporate has been a big part of helping us learn the intelligent system as well as incorporating drone flights to verify that what the machines are seeing is exactly what we’re seeing,” Scheve explained. “We’ve made drone flights a standard, so before we ever move a speck of dirt, we do an initial flight of the sites to make sure we have accurate models to work from. CAD (computer-aided design) files are developed from those, and those models are uploaded to the intelligent machines. We do subsequent flights about a month apart to check progress and verify how much dirt was moved, and that gets uploaded to Dashboard. That information helps us put together as-built models we can show to the customer and keep accurate records.”
Brewton said that level of accuracy has been impressive to Castle and its customers.
“We are a very schedule-driven contractor,” Brewton stated. “When we make a schedule, we want to stay on it. Drone flights let you verify a site within a matter of hours rather than days with the old methods of walking the site and staking it. Instead of taking maybe 20 shots with a rover and a stick within a 10-foot section, the drone is shooting thousands of points in that same area, so it’s delivering a more accurate picture. Billing is another advantage we see. We don’t want to overcharge our customer or be underpaid. With the drone, you can verify exact quantities, and you get paid for exactly the work you’ve done, and that’s what we want.”
Increased productivity and efficiency with Komatsu iMC machines and Smart Construction solutions on the Renewable Energy Division’s Wisconsin projects have encouraged the Castle team to expand their usage of technology.
“Recent legislation is only going to put additional significant dollars into renewables, and we have customers asking us for commitments for several years out; making the investment makes sense,” said Scheve. “We see the applications for the machines and solutions in our other divisions too, such as Pipeline, so we are looking into how to adopt it for those going forward.”
**The opinions expressed here are from the end users who are quoted.