solar farm

solar farm

Solar farms or photovoltaic power plants generate solar energy to provide commercial electricity to the main grid. Solar power is increasingly becoming one of the most popular forms of electricity generation today. It has overtaken traditional power sources such as coal in terms of popularity and pace of adoption. A typical solar farm consists of huge arrays of solar panels lined up across huge open fields, sometimes combined with agricultural lands, hence the term ‘farms’. Due to the sheer scale and size of utility solar power generation, such solar farms are located away from main cities and populated areas. Solar farms use PV panels that convert the energy of the photons in sunlight into electricity. When a photon strikes the semiconductor panel, its energy is absorbed and an electron is released which forms an electric current.

Why Is Solar Beneficial for Farms?

Before we dive into the top panels for agricultural use, it’s helpful to understand how solar is a good match for farmland. benefits of solar on designated farmland or rural land, and how landowners can use solar to increase energy savings.

1. Solar Is Easy to Install On Farmland

The first benefit, which might not seem obvious at first, is that it’s relatively straightforward to install ground-mounted solar modules on agricultural land. If you’ve grown crops on your land in the past, the land has already been leveled, which provides a nice even surface for installing solar panels.

2. The Federal Government Incentivizes Solar Installations On Farms

There are some solar incentives and tax credits available for solar installations for agricultural use. First, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grants and affordable solar financing opportunities to farms looking to go solar. Second, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) currently provides a 30% credit for your entire system cost to your income taxes. The ITC can drastically reduce the amount you pay to bring solar to your farmland.

3. Solar Reduces the Cost of Bringing Electricity to Rural Areas

Even farms that are near electrical service can have portions of the land — like where electrical pumps are needed for irrigation — that are far from energy sources. Without solar, running electrical lines to these areas can be prohibitively expensive. By installing small, off-the-grid solar farm systems, you can drastically reduce costs and generate energy exactly where you need it on your land.

Types of Solar Farms

Of the tens of thousands of solar panel installations in the U.S., they can be grouped into two types of solar farms, both based on size.

1. Utility-scale

First and foremost, the phrase “utility scale” can be a bit misleading. Technically, all solar energy projects — whether it’s a few rooftop panels or a whole acre of them — are “on the grid” providing the local utility company with solar-powered electricity. The only time a solar energy project is not truly utility-scale is when it’s completely disconnected from the grid and not connected through a power line. This is rarely the case. But for our purposes and most discussions of this nature, utility-scale solar farms refer to those massive areas of land where solar panels stretch beyond the horizon. Such installations consist of hundreds of thousands of solar panels that absorb energy from the sun, generate an electric current, and distribute that power on high-voltage power lines. The electricity travels along those power lines to the electricity grid, eventually making its way to your home. These facilities, including ours, typically operate on power purchase agreements, wherein businesses agree to purchase a specific amount of electricity either from the utility or the generator. They also operate through other means, such as tax equity investments, a fancy term you can learn more about in our solar for business article.

2. Community Solar Farms

Community solar farms are small-scale solar facilities that generate around 5 MW of electricity for a local community of homes and businesses. The power is shared among everyone who participates in the program. Depending on the number of residents and the amount of production, the residents could get a reduction in their electricity bill for investing in this solar project. Here’s how it works: The solar panels are installed in a large, open area of the neighborhood that receives maximum exposure to sunlight. The solar energy gets fed into the larger electricity grid for the region. People who joined the solar program will see their energy bill adjusted for the amount of energy generated about the size of their home. This is possible with a technology called “virtual net metering.” Your retail energy company will credit your bill for the amount of electricity your community solar farm generates in proportion to your home’s energy load. Community solar also differs from utility-scale solar because it’s considered distributed energy or distributed generation resource (DER). The electricity produced by the community solar farm is used to power the homes within a close range. Thus, they’re less likely to lose power if the grid goes down.

Disadvantages of solar farms

Solar farms have an upfront cost for property owners

Commercial and residential solar installations have significant upfront costs. For property owners looking to start a solar farm, you can expect to pay $800,000 to 1.3 million dollars at first. However, there is also the potential for a significant return on investment. Once you’ve constructed the farm, you have the potential to make as much as $40,000 per year by selling electricity for a 1MW solar farm.

Solar farms require a lot of space

A significant amount of land is needed for solar farms with about 5-7 acres in total to account for the solar arrays themselves as well as space for related equipment and space between repair and maintenance. It also may take up to 5 years to construct a solar farm.

Energy storage for solar farms can be costly

Like solar-plus-storage options for homeowners, utility-scale and community solar farms require storage technology like batteries to collect and preserve the excess energy generated by solar panels. This can get expensive. However, there are financial benefits for both subscribers and owners who sell energy back to the grid in the form of net metering. Solar panels are a great way to generate renewable energy and save money on your electricity bill. There are many factors to consider when choosing solar panels, including the amount of sunlight you receive, and the type of solar panel you want.  We are excited to announce that we are offering solar panel installation services throughout the entire state of California! With our experienced team of installers, you can rest assured that your solar panel system will be installed quickly and efficiently. Give us a call today for more information, or just fill out the form on the home page and our experts will contact you to give more information about our solar panel installation services and how we can help you save money on your energy bills.

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