Solar Panel Farm
Solar Panel Farm

Clearing the Land for a Solar Panel Farm

Cutting down trees to create a solar panel farm may sound counterintuitive, but Hurley Land Clearing are putting all those trees to good use. Find out how they use Cat powered grinders to create mulch and limit waste.

By Rachel Wallace, Contributor | Posted: February 23, 2021 | Revised: March 28, 2022

The world’s population is growing at a rate of 1.1 percent.  That may not seem like a lot. But, to put into perspective, that’s about 83 million more people (roughly the population of Germany) added to the planet each year. That’s 83 million more people who need resources, including power. 

So how do we continue to provide power to a growing population? Natural resources like coal, oil and gas are still part of the foreseeable future. But they’re limited. That’s why sustainable energy solutions like solar are becoming more and more prevalent, even in places you wouldn’t expect them.

Building Sustainable Energy Sustainably

When you think of a solar farm, you most likely think of a field of panels out in the desert. But today, there’s demand in places like the tree-dense state of Massachusetts. To make these solar farms work, trees have to be removed so panels get adequate sunlight.  That sounds counterintuitive — cutting down trees in the name of conservation – but experts like Hurley Land Clearing are doing it in a way that puts all those trees to good use.

“A large part of land clearing is the end product we make and sell from the trees we remove, which is mulch,” says Greg Hurley, owner.

Creating mulch out of the cleared trees ensures that nothing is wasted. It’s also a big part of keeping Hurley’s business running.

“It’s how we’re able to remain profitable as a business,” says Greg Hurley, owner.

So how do you turn giant trees into itty bitty pieces of mulch? Answer: a grinder.

Panoramic Image

Keep Grinding

“The grinder is one of the most important pieces of equipment in our operation. If it’s down, we aren’t able to make any material and so on. And the challenge with grinding trees is that it is very rough on equipment, which we’ve had to learn the hard way.”

Today, Hurley Land Clearing uses the Bandit 4680 Grinder powered by a Cat® C32 engine that makes mulching trees look like shredding a document in your office paper shredder.

“We chose the Cat powered Bandit grinder because the engine’s fuel consumption is hands down the best we’ve ever seen—by a long shot,” Greg says. “Besides that, the C32 has the horsepower we were looking for and the best thing about it since we’ve got it? We’ve got more than 1,700 hours on that high-horsepower motor, and we haven’t had to do a thing but service it like we would any other engine.”

That’s particularly important, according to Greg, because much of the grinding work for solar farms happens in remote areas. 

“When you’re in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have time to waste worrying over unreliable products or machines. Cat products are some of the most reliable out there.  It’s why we choose Cat again and again.”

Keep grinding Greg.  Thanks for helping communities make the leap to more sustainable power.

Solar Panel Farm
Clearing the land

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Rachel Wallace

Rachel Wallace


Rachel has been with Caterpillar for 9 years. She is currently in the Brand Team working as a storyteller and brand instructor. She lives with her husband, a Caterpillar engineer, and two young daughters who absolutely love excavators. She often describes her family as "bleeding yellow." They live on the family farm in northern Ohio where they enjoy long walks through the woods and gardening.

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