From individual households to multi-billion-dollar corporations, there is a growing concern globally about promoting what is good for the environment. Several initiatives are in place to promote sustainability. Among others, one of the most common is the use of renewable energy, and this is possible by building solar farms.
In a nutshell, it is basically a collection of photovoltaic cells that harness energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. It has a massive operation. This is an immense step-up from the usual solar panels installed in the roofs of many homes. Solar farms are built for commercial purposes to provide clean and alternative energy to thousands of users. To know more about solar farms, keep on reading and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing.
What is a Solar Farm?
When the word “farm” is mentioned, what it is that you think about? Most of you will think of a land area where animals and farms are grown. However, when we talk about solar farm, we are talking about a vast land wherein the main product is solar energy instead of crops or animal by-products.
Simply put, a solar farm is a collection of photovoltaic cells or solar panels. It is a large-scale facility that harnesses solar energy, which is then supplied at a massive scale. The panels are installed in huge open agricultural fields, which is also why it is called a solar farm. There is no formal definition, and hence, it is difficult to establish the maximum and minimum size. It can range from 1 to 100 acres and it is often found in rural areas. It is quite difficult to develop such a facility in an urban facility because of the large size.
A solar farm will provide commercial electricity to the main power grid. This is in contrast to solar panels installed in the roofs of homes. From the solar farm, the electricity is sent to a grid and it is then distributed to a community. The electricity supply is shared by multiple properties and they also share the costs. As a result, the subscribers can save as much as 15% off their electricity bills.
What are the Benefits of a Solar Farm?
All of the benefits of traditional solar panels are also evident in solar farms. They provide clean and renewable energy from the sun, making it a good move for saving the planet. It is expensive initially, but in the long-term, it will help the subscribers to minimize the cost of their energy usage. The best thing is that it relies on the infinite heat of the sun, unlike traditional electricity, which uses non-renewable sources, such as coal.
Speaking of its environmental impact, one more thing that we love about solar farms is that they do not produce any pollution. It is not a culprit of air pollution, unlike traditional power plants. Plus, there is no noise as it converts the energy of the sun into electricity. There are also no chemicals or any discharge that can pollute land and water.
More so, solar farming is space efficient. The solar panels can be installed raised from the ground. This means that there is a high clearance, so you can utilize the space underneath. It can be used for planting agricultural crops but be mindful about their sunlight needs. Plus, it can also be a space for animal grazing. This way, owners of solar farmers can maximize land use for better profitability.
Another benefit is that it is possible to build a solar farm almost anywhere in the world. There are no restrictions in terms of location. As long as the sun shines, then it is possible to build large-scale solar panels.
What Makes a Solar Farm?
Now that you have a general idea of what solar farms are, let’s dig deeper and talk about its different components. Because of its massive operation, the construction requires top-notch equipment to maximize the benefits.
The racks are the ones mounted on the ground, providing a secure structure for the system. They are often made of steel, aluminum, or similar metal. It is traditionally buried up to six feet under the ground to establish a strong foundation. This will make it solid enough to withstand the harsh environment, especially strong winds. If the racks are mounted poorly and made of inferior material, then this will compromise the entire system. It is often affixed on the ground without the need for concrete, which allows the facility to use the land for farming or similar purposes.
No solar farm is complete without solar panels. It is the heart of the system. The racks have rails and bolts, which will secure the panels in their position. They are arranged in a string. The number of panels in a string will depend on the layout and the intended output. It can range from six to 40 panels in one string depending on the set-up.
The type of the panel used is an important consideration. You will choose from polycrystalline or mono crystalline.Otherwise, the cells will break easily, and such can be a financial burden.
A solar inverter converts DC power into AC electricity. This is the one that powers homes. There are two main types of inverters that are used in solar farms – centralized and string. For smaller farms, string inverters are common. For larger applications, on the other hand, a centralized inverter is a better option. Choose only superior inverters as they will directly impact the performance of the solar panels. Pick those from reliable brands. Kaco and ABB are some of the best options to consider.
Starting a Solar Farm
It might seem like an ambitious project, but if you are bold enough to dream big, then consider starting a solar farm. Truth be told, it isn’t as easy as it seems. The process is not as straightforward as installing solar panels in your home. You will need a large land and massive investment.
1. Assess the Needs
First, there should be a need for solar power. Otherwise, the farm is useless. Make sure that there is demand. Do your research to gauge the interest of the people who will be supplied solar power. Also, study the current competition. Chances are, when there is already a solar farm in one location, it may be enough to supply the needs.
2. Pick the Right Location
Consider how many acres of land will be needed depending on the anticipated demand. Land surveys are important to determine the suitability. It also includes handling the documentary requirements, especially when a land sale is involved.
3. Take Care of the Legal Requirements
The specific procedure will vary depending on where you are building the solar farm. You will need to register your company and pay the necessary fees. Gather the required permits or licenses. This will entail working with different organizations. It is best to work with professionals, such as lawyers who can handle the contract.
4. Gather Your Finances
While some may already have the finances needed, for other people, they will be applying for a loan from financial institutions. Look for banks offering good terms, especially in terms of the interest rate. You will need to carry out financial projections to determine how much to borrow, as well as the timeframe for the repayment.
As you take care of the financial aspect, it is important to understand the costs that are involved. Generally speaking, the cost to install one megawatt of solar panels will be around $1 million. The good news is that you don’t have to install such a big facility. You can start small and eventually grow your farm. Also, with several funding options available, you have different sources for capital. All that you need is to prove the viability of the project to be easily approved of the needed business loan.
5. Procure the Necessary Supplies
Look for suppliers. Be patient and do not immediately decide unless you have exhausted your means. At a minimum, look for at least three companies and see which one will suit your budget while assuring the best quality. From solar panels to solar inverters, you will need several components. The overall performance of the solar farm will depend on your equipment, so see to it that the quality is second to none.
6. Start the Construction
Once everything is ready, you can now commence the construction of the solar farm. You will need to partner with companies to supply the manpower that you will need. Create a construction schedule. Be realistic with the latter. Work only with competent people so that you can be confident of the quality of the output. From building racks to connecting the panels to a grid, the construction can take several months, especially for a large solar facility.
The Largest Solar Farms in the World
With the rising popularity of solar as an alternative energy, there are lots of solar farms around the world. Let’s quickly talk about some of the most popular that you need to know.
1. Pavagada Solar Park
With a budget of over $2 billion, this 2GW solar farm will power more than 700,000 homes. Also called Shakti Sthala, this farm is located in India. It is a part of the national initiative of the government, spearheaded by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. During the conceptualization of the project, the target was to provide up to 100GW of solar power in India by 2020. This project aims to intensify the goal of lessening dependence to traditional electricity sources. With an area of 13,000 acres, the solar farm is made of fixed tilted PV cells at an angle of 15 degrees. To make the most out of the project, the farm has auxiliary facilities, which include waste management systems and bore wells.
2. Noor Complex Solar Power Plants
Also called Noor Power Station and Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, this solar farm is based in Morocco. It is the largest concentrated solar power plant with a combined output of 510 MW in a 6,178-acre land. It was a build, own, operate, and transfer project also is a part of the national government’s initiative in a project known as the Moroccan Solar Energy Program, which is geared towards achieving a total combined output of 2GW of solar energy by 2020 for meeting the country’s energy needs.
3. Kamuthi Solar Power Project
Located in Tamil Nadu, India, this solar farm has a massive size of 2,500 acres and supplies 648 MW. There are 2.5 million solar modules in this location, making it once the largest solar plant in one place in 2016. Over the years, however, newer solar farms have been completed, taking away the record from Kamuthi. With the full capacity of the solar farm, it is estimated that the electricity produced will be more than enough for 150,000 homes.
In sum, a solar farm is a vast land where there are solar panels to harness energy from the sun and convert it into electricity that is supplied at a large scale. It is similar to solar systems installed in the roofs of homes, but the main difference is the massive size also built for commercial purposes and is a great business idea, although, it does not come cheap. From the cost of the land to the price of the supplies, you will need a lot of money to start a solar farm. Luckily, there are plenty of financing options available.