The attraction of one solution for everything is undeniable and crops up in pretty much every sector or field. For the outdoors, we have the swiss army knife. In everyday life, we have smartphones that do a lot more than the rotary phones of yesteryear. For geotechnical engineers in solar, we now have a single tool that can do both testing and installation of a variety of foundation types for solar sites, where you would normally need two. This one-of-its-kind C-416 Multi-Use Low Impact (MULI) drilling and installation platform promises to reduce the cost of data collection and install all solar foundation types.

An Alberta company, Core Drilling, launched the C-416 MULI in 2020, but it shows a great deal of promise to do more with fewer machines. Invented and built by Core Drilling, the C-416 MULI was designed to be used in multiple applications across several industries from environmental, geotechnical, and civil engineering. The prototype is well-equipped to complete augur drilling and direct push core drilling to test soil samples on-site. Typical for its drilling platform, the C-416 MULI is agile to maneuver on-site to the precise location where it’s needed and is capable of drilling to 20′ and completing exploratory drilling beyond this depth.

The C-416 MULI addresses a particular gap in the renewable energy construction sector, adaptable to all foundation types. No other drilling platform is capable of installing both screw and driven piles with the same piece of equipment. In Alberta and across Canada, an excavator is used to install foundations at a solar site. But the motion of the arm was not designed for the strict vertical motion necessary to install foundations accurately. When a drilling platform specifically designed for installing foundations is used on-site, it typically can handle only driven piles and not screw piles and vice versa. Here’s where the C-416 MULI excels, it can install all types of foundations and reduces the number of equipment mobilizations needed on-site to one.

At this point, C-416 MULI exists in a party of one, so its ideal application in solar would be during the preliminary engineering studies for solar pile design development. At a complex and varied site, geotechnical engineers often need to order multiple pieces of equipment – all to be delivered on-site for when they need it. Preliminary design studies may include multiple soil drilling sites and installation of piles, again at multiple sites. The time and logistics eat up company resources, when they could be more efficiently applied to the work-at-hand. The swiss army knife of the drilling world reduces the upfront capital investment and simplifies on-site logistics.

The C-416 MULI is an example of the fruits of investing in R&D – it was partially funded by an Alberta Innovates grant for local companies developing new technologies. PRI Engineering was happy to support this funding request through a letter of support and continues to supply consulting services throughout the R&D process. The C-416 MULI’s immediate adoption by the environmental industry for drilling at abandoned mines and often in remote locations, and the positive feedback are proof of concept.