The continuous adoption of solar power in recent times, as part of the general shift towards renewable energy, has created several opportunities, and one of such is setting up a solar farm. A solar farm is made up of a large concentration of photovoltaic panels, used to harness considerable energy from the sun. They are distinguished from typical residential and commercial solar systems in that they are decentralized and operate just like power plants. Solar farms do not typically provide power to local users. Instead, they are more related to utility-scale applications. If you are planning to or have ever considered starting a solar farm, I will take you through the process of how to start a solar farm by answering some pertinent questions.
What Size of Land Do I Need?
Really, there is no standard when it comes to the size of land needed to start a solar farm. Nonetheless, the intended scale of the farm directly influences the size of the land required. There are some large scale solar farms that are situated on large expanses of land, measuring more than 2000 acres.
Smaller-scale solar farms can fit on some hundreds of acres. However, a few acres of land can still be sufficient, especially when you are just starting up. When considering the size of land needed, you should consider then power output expected. The number of solar panels needed can also influence the area of land needed.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
A very important part of the planning process is establishing the approximate number of solar panels you will need. In some ways, this is affected by the land size, but the major determinant is the energy demand you plan to meet. From the energy demand, you then work your way back to the number of panels that will be required to produce that energy level.
In calculating the number of panels, you need to consider the wattage the panels are capable of producing per given area. Further explanations that may help you in calculating the number of solar panels needed can be found here.
Cost Implication of the Solar Farm
As solar farms are typically established for utility-scale applications, they ought to produce at least 1 megawatt of power, which can serve up to 200 typical households. The cost per watt of solar power production is influenced by several factors: geographical location, climate, and shading effect. However, 1 watt averagely costs $1.
The cost per watt in households ranges from $3 - $4, which is much more than the cost effect per watt produced on solar farms. Solar farms cover extensive areas, so the short term cost effect is always high, especially when you input the cost of setting up solar panels. However, when compared to smaller solar systems, the long term cost is always lower.
One interesting thing about solar panels is that they are durable and quite easy to maintain. Still, the maintenance of a solar farm is, by no means, an easy feat. It is always ideal to have a water source or other cleaning options available. Some large scale solar farms feature solar-powered cleaning robots. Without regular cleaning of the panels, the power output of the farm will eventually reduce.
Related post: How to Protect Your Solar Panel from Hail?
The Electrical Connection
Another thing you should consider is the proximity of the farm to the power grid. Proximity is not the only thing to consider; the ease of connection between the farm and the grid is also significant. These are factors that influence the cost of setting up the solar farm.
Solar Farm Permits
The permits required to establish and run a solar farm varies from country to country. You must get all the permits and fulfill all the conditions required before setting up the farm. For example, in the U.S.A, you need to get approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Legal documents like the certificate of incorporation, memorandum of understanding, operating agreements, insurance policy, and more are also required in most cases.
Not a lot of people have the financial ability to fund a solar farm project personally. Where the money and means are available, it may still be a good idea to source external funding. In certain countries, financing form the government is available through several government programs. Also, public and private partnerships are possible, while private investors can also be a source of finance for solar farms.
Whether or not you are financing the project personally, a business plan is a must, especially for a considerable investment like this. In the business plan, you get to outline the nature of your investment, the cost estimate, and the expected return on investment. I would advise you to involve professionals in the development of your business plan unless you are particularly experienced in business plan development.
Benefits of Investing in a Solar Farm
For most people who invest in solar farms, it is not only a result of a feeling of responsibility for the environment. It is also a means to make more money. Some benefits of investing in solar farms are discussed below:
There is less manipulation in the solar farm market, and the revenue is relatively predictable as volatility is low. For a particular sum invested, the approximate return on your investment can be easily calculated.
Reduced carbon emission
In addition to making a profit, solar farms have a significant effect on the environment. Energy harnessed from the sun is clean and renewable. It doesn’t pollute the environment like some non-renewable energy sources.
High return on investment
The initial cost of setting up the solar farm can be high. Nonetheless, the low maintenance cost and renewable nature mean that the running cost is kept minimal. In the long run, there is a high profit to be expected, all other things being equal.
It is quite easy to attract investors
In today’s world, when solar power is slowly becoming inevitable, it has become easier to get funding for a solar energy project than to get investors for other forms of energy projects.
The returns on a solar farm investment are much more than just covering the cost of investment and making some profit. After covering the cost of investment, the profit is bound to continue for a very long time.
As solar power has drawn much attention in recent times, many job opportunities have been created. From consultants to engineers, and the maintenance staff, a lot of human input is required to establish and run a solar farm.
See more: How to Become a Solar Panel Installer?
In many countries of the world, solar power is rapidly becoming more accepted. This has created space for investments into this energy form. The interesting thing about solar power itself is the cleanliness and renewability. No pollution arises from the energy conversion process, so investing in solar farms is a way of making our environment safer. However, investing in a solar farm is not a simple step to take, so the process has to be approached with all care and diligence. In the long run, considerable return on investment is quite assured, all other things being equal.