Undoubtedly, solar power is a more affordable, accessible, and preferred renewable resource. According to a report by the U.S. Energy Administration, there are more than 2500 utility-scale solar farms. Growing technology and improvised A.I. are cutting down the installation cost, which is increasing the adaptation of solar energy.
Today, when 3%-5% of U.S. electricity comes from solar energy, it is wise to think of solar farms and enter the renewable energy market. Before we move on –
What is a Solar Farm?
A solar farm, also known as the photovoltaic power station, is a large-scale grid-connected P.V. power system. It can be anywhere from ten acres to hundreds of acres in size as it consists of ground-mounted solar panels installed across large areas.
There are three common types of solar farms across the country: utility-scale, distributed generation, and microgrids. Land used for solar farms needs to be flat, away from wetlands, and close to three-phase power.
Sun’s power is harvested in these solar farms using large-scale solar installations. They are also known as solar power stations because of their power production.
Solar farms encourage land use, proving non-agricultural land an asset to the owner. Also, they provide power to the electric grid instead of local end-users or businesses and are decentralized, unlike residential and commercial systems.
Solar farms’ economic and environmental value is an important aspect, and site selection for solar farms directly impacts power production and performance. While selecting land for solar farms, environmental and social aspects and infrastructure need to be on top priority.
According to the Department of Energy, more Americans are taking advantage of clean energy as the initial cost of solar energy dropped significantly in recent times.
Functioning of Solar Farms
Solar farms are efficient ways to generate clean energy without harming the environment, and they can be easily installed and produce no emissions during power generation.
According to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department of the U.S. average cost of solar panels has dropped nearly 70% since 2014.
More than one in seven U.S. homes will have a rooftop solar system with cost reduction and advanced techniques by 2030. Let’s discover the types and operations of various solar farms before diving into the pros and cons of solar farms.
Types of Solar Farm
Solar parks are divided based on power production capacity and their end-user. The broad classification is as follows-
1. Utility-scale solar farms
Every utility-scale solar farm has a power purchase agreement that guarantees a market for its power for a fixed time. It generates solar power and feeds it directly into the electric grid. The Solar Energy Industries Association states that utility-scale solar farms generate greater than 1-megawatt solar energy. The value of an urban utility grid can be 20 M.W. or greater in size.
However, actual size and power production make the difference. As the utility companies receive the power, they further distribute it commercial or residential accordingly.
2. Distributed Generation
The U.S. has more than 12 million distributed generation units; they are generally small scale and provide improvised connection. Distributed solar power generation encourages providing clean solar power near the end-users, especially in an area with deployed tools and technology.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the use of distributed generation has increased due to several reasons such as cost-effectiveness, government policies, high energy demand days, and reliable power production.
As the name suggests, microgrids are small-scale versions of a larger electric grid that produce and supply power directly to the community or group of users. However, it works independently of the main grid but is free to interact and connect with the main grid.
They can be disconnected and operated individually from the main source, and hence, energy output and the whole grid won’t be affected if there is an issue.
According to a report published in the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, there are approximately 160 microgrids in the United States. Most of them are in Alaska, California, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Microgrids are expected to increase by more than 4.3 GW by 2022. Additionally, microgrids attract large U.S. companies to partner with the government for a sustainable low-carbon economic future.
How Does a Solar Farm Work?
The solar farm concept is moving forward with future aspects and improvisation. Solar energy covers a major part of clean and renewable energy to replace fossil fuels. Solar farms are distributed according to their power production and end-user, but their functioning is almost similar with every type.
Solar panels installed in the area convert the sunlight into electricity. It generates electricity by concentrating the sun’s energy which heats the panel and activates the semiconductors. Many solar panels are grouped for mass power production in a solar farm.
You might observe a ‘single-axis–tracking system’ mounted on panels and horizontal poles attached to solar panels which run north to south. This system helps the panels to capture maximum sunlight with rotation as they follow the sun.
Solar panels, racks, cables, transformers, power lines, etc., are equipment used in solar farms.
Pros and Cons of Solar Farm
Renewable energy emphasizes an environment-friendly approach and encourages energy production with minimum or zero carbon emissions. Solar energy proves to be the ‘next generation power’ with its effectiveness. The 26% federal tax credit makes solar an attractive investment for homeowners through the end of 2022.
Let’s discuss some advantages and disadvantages in detail-
Pros of Solar Farm
1. Employment opportunities
According to the EIA, there are more than 2500 utility-scale solar P.V. facilities in the U.S. for power production. The government is encouraging renewable energy, and large solar farms are a source of good employment opportunities in the not-so naive green sector. As per a survey, a single solar farm can employ at least 500 technical staff and other workers for regular maintenance.
As the world is moving towards sustainable energy sources, one can be sure to have secure and stable job opportunities in this field. Also, living next to a solar farm generates indirect employment such as food, housing, and other services.
2. Reduced Cost of Energy
Renewable energy comes with environmental and financial benefits. Nowadays, most governments are helping with initial investments. Also, the federal government gives companies a tax credit of up to 25%-30% for building solar generation projects and other significant discounts.
Furthermore, you will be benefited from reduced power cost and stable connection. As solar powers have storage and battery backups, you can enjoy a power supply without interruptions.
3. Zero Noise Pollution
Solar farms are quiet as the scenario under the deep sea compared to other power production plants. Solar panels and other equipment associated with it do not generate any noise. Also, minimal manual power is involved at once, making it an almost ignorable noise situation.
4. Low maintenance
Once set up, solar farms are less of maintenance, and they would require a minimum regular check-up here and there. Solar farms can run for more than twenty years apart from semi-yearly cleaning. Although, if a solar farm is situated in a place of dust storms, they need to be cleaned on time. Otherwise, they are good to go!
5. Annual Working capacity
Modern panels are more efficient due to advanced technology and an improvised model of the heat-trapping system.
They are capable of power production in low light, which catalyzes the whole process in every season. This benefits solar farms with annual power production supply change.
It benefits the whole electricity grid and maintains the power supply. Solar panels have a longer life span, are widely accepted, and reduce energy costs.
Cons of Solar Farm
Solar plants can hinder life expectancy as it produces electromagnetic radiation. The equipment used to store and maintain the power supply consists of some elements that can make you suffer from mild to severe electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
It is rare and depends on your time around or near it. Consult a doctor as soon as possible if you are suffering from constant headaches or restlessness. But again, it is very unlikely to happen.
2. Decrease the property value
Yes, you heard it right! Where a home solar system increases the property value and attracts more sellers in contrast, solar farms reduce it. Few people with their perspectives might not find it pleasing to live near a fully developed and functional solar farm.
The solar farm needs flat land, ample sunlight, and no wetlands. This means deforestation as solar farm owners can’t be best friends with trees at their site. Solar farm clears trees and other vegetation, objects of shadow near it. However, companies try to minimize negative impact around, but solar farms are not the view people would consider.
Also, removal of any shades is essential for working for solar panels to capture maximum sunlight.
4. Habitat Degradation
Solar farms are an efficient and greenhouse gas-free way of producing power, but they cause major habitat degradation. A vast amount of land is required for large-scale and industrial-scale production setups. Initially, it displaces many trees, flora, and fauna, which also receives intense criticism.
In the U.S., large solar farm projects are built and operated in the West, home of empty deserts.
Some of the cons are Costly storage, unavailability of sun, geographical conditions, and need external help to build one. If the quality of solar panels is not good, it will negatively impact the environment.
Consequences of Living Near a Solar Farm
Solar power is beneficial for the environment, but it affects communities differently. Solar farms acquire large space and are mostly away from city spaces. Although solar energy is a leading game-changer for the clean energy future, it might have some downsides like local habitat disruption, reduced agricultural land, unsightly views, and electromagnetic radiation.
As per the global solar survey, the expanding solar industry predicts a surge of $223.3 billion by 2026. The contribution to a greener future will spike with crucial climate goals through the Paris Agreement, where the International Energy Agency plans to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2050.
What Do You Need to Know Before Living Near a Solar Farm?
There are a lot of aspects you want to research before deciding to move near a solar farm. Where you can cut down the cost of energy while living near a solar farm, you can also have a noiseless industrial-scale plant working with zero pollution. Apart from the fact that the solar farm is a hub for employment opportunities, it is also home to radiation.
Yes, people living near solar farms for long durations often complain about headaches, restlessness, and other illnesses. Radiation causes long-term sickness, which can go from mild to severe altering life expectancy. Severe burns and vision issues are also reported with heat and cold stress, says the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States.
Benefits of Solar Farm
Solar power is a pillar of renewable energy that benefits the entire community of humanity and the environment. Clean energy supply with low prices restores the planet’s health and balances the supply-demand of our community.
People not only get better employment opportunities but also enhance the economic balance of the country. With a communicative and collective approach, you can help to reduce global emissions.
The power of technology and digitalization has somehow made the job easier for an individual to handle and maintain solar farms. Other government incentives help you build a solar farm according to the size of the land.
How to Build a Perfect Solar Farm?
‘There is nothing like flawlessness on the earth.’ The Community & Environmental Defense Services survey can help you find the best possible way to build a solar farm with minimal negative impact.
· Choose a site that is at least 600 feet away from homes or not visible from residential colonies.
· Battery storage systems need to be flexible with the least extensive activity to control radiation.
· Do not choose a location where extensive deforestation is required. Save trees and natural habitats as much as possible.
· Try to preserve agricultural soil and minimize the damage for a balanced approach to power production.
The Solar & Future Theory
The study observes a slope of cost reductions, more supportive policies, and large-scale electrification. Talking about solar energy, it could account for as much as 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050.
The study finds that electricity prices didn’t increase with continued technological advancement in the solar industry. With improved demand flexibility and growing solar industry, 95% decarbonization can be achieved by 2035.
The substantial solar deployment will grow to 60 G.W. on average from 2025 to 2030. Grid reliability and stability are increased with flexible storage, transmission expansion, and quality of solar panels. The zero-emission power supply can be envisioned by upcoming future technology and artificial intelligence, which ensure maximum use of renewable resources.
Electricity Generation and Distribution in the U.S. via Solar Farm
There is ample data to prove solar energy and its efficiency; however, it has not reached its full potential as a clean energy source. Solar technologies have made it easier to implement the concept of solar energy, but the market barriers and grid integration challenges still hinder somewhere.
A dramatic fall in the cost of solar hardware is helping a large community to adapt to renewable energy. There are electricity substations, transformers, and power lines that connect electricity producers and consumers.
This interconnection enhances the power supply and connects hundreds of millions of electricity consumers across the country. The electricity grid helps to balance and meet constant supply-demand.
According to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department of the U.S. average solar cost of solar panels has dropped nearly 70% since 2014. More than one in seven U.S. homes will have a rooftop solar system with cost reduction and advanced techniques by 2030.
Several states and local governments are also advancing policies to encourage renewable technologies. Existing technologies are a good way to harness renewable energy and make resourceful use out of it.
When we opt for renewable resources, we can explore the role and make a difference by supporting the environment. Innovative market solutions with increased efficiency are shifting solar farms towards a more positive and long-lasting impact.
Solar farms work as a reliable and stable portfolio of power plants, and this is also a professionally practical and safe approach for the betterment of the environment.
Research is essential before deciding on the type and source of renewable energy. Check our other blogs to know more about sustainable living, renewable energy, and management.