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A solar farm is a large area installed with multiple ground-mount solar tracking towers. Solar farms are different from building-mounted and other decentralized solar energy applications as they provide solar power to utilities rather than for local grids. The size of solar plants available in utility-scale solar farms ranges from 10 MW to more than 200 MW. Reports state that approximately 25 acres of land is required for every 5 MW installations that can power 1515 houses.
Solar farms cover a large area of land, and hence they are commonly developed in rural areas. Thorough planning procedures are required to get approval for the construction of solar farms. Planning includes consideration of suitability of the site, relevant renewable energy targets and any impact on the locality.
Benefits of Solar Farms
Solar farms are a simple way of producing safe, renewable and locally produced energy for several years after construction. There are a number of key benefits of solar farming, which are as follows:
- The land used for constructing solar farms provides a better habitat for wildlife and plants. The land around the solar panels is generally grass-land that can be maintained with hedges. Alternatively, animal grazing between the rows of installed panels and in the ground under the panels is also possible
- Solar farms receive a great return on investment, mainly when electricity bill savings, maintenance costs and reassurance of guaranteed income are considered. Solar feed-in-tariffs are applicable in some instances. Recent advancements and cost reductions such as financing incentives in addition to the reduction in costs to build solar panels will further make solar farming easier than before
- Components in solar farms have no moving parts, and the inverters are housed in sound-proofed boxing. Hence, there is hardly any noise generated from solar farms. Solar farms can be constructed very close to load centers as they are minimally disruptive to the local environment. This not only reduces the transmission difficulty, but also improves the efficiency of solar panels by reducing line losses
- Solar farms are the most direct way to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Besides producing renewable energy, solar farms feed surplus power to the mains grid thereby distributing clean energy
- These farms are often constructed with cameras and security fences to secure solar panels. Solar farm installation does not increase flood risk. However, developers may use stable materials that aim at preventing soil compaction during the construction of solar farms
Solar energy is a clean, safe and renewable source of energy. Solar farms are a relatively effective and unobtrusive way of generating electricity. The only drawback with this technology is that solar farms occupy large space and are pricey. However, the benefits of solar farms far outweigh their high installation costs and other limitations.
With innovative ideas from various scientists being developed to combat the limitations, solar farms could likely be the future of global energy sources. Scientists have also predicted that solar energy will contribute to a quarter of the world’s energy in the not too distant future.
Sources and Further Reading