While homeowners with solar panels on their roofs aim to generate enough power to cover their individual energy needs, large utility-scale solar farms are designed to generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes and businesses. Who do solar farms work? A solar panel farm feeds power into the electrical grid just as fossil-fuel energy plants do, except that solar farms produce no pollution of any kind, and use very little water compared to traditional power plants.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells made of silicon are constructed into panels, each gathering a small amount of sunlight energy. The panels are installed on short towers over an area as big as 100 acres. Some solar farms fix their PV panels into a static position; other farms use solar tracking systems that move the panels to follow the sun. Multiple panels are required to generate significant electricity, which is why solar panel farm arrays are so large. Solar developers either buy the land for their panels, or lease it from businesses, government agencies or private individuals.
Another form of solar farming energy is concentrated solar power, which uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight and create heat, which drives a variety of conventional generator systems. PV solar farms are more popular and in much greater use, outnumbering concentrated solar power installations by 40 to one.
Solar farms produce no pollution of any kind, and use very little water compared to traditional power plants.
Most of the existing utility-scale solar panel farms are owned and operated by independent power producers, but the number of projects owned by communities and utilities is increasing. Developers of solar farms have benefitted from the solar investment tax credit (ITC), which reduces the federal tax liability for individuals or businesses that purchase qualifying solar energy technologies. In December 2015, Congress extended tax and production credits for renewable energy for five years, which is expected to significantly expand renewable energy projects in the United States, including solar panel farms.
With current PV technology, solar farming developers need approximately 2.5 acres of solar panels in high intensity sun areas to produce a megawatt of electricity; in moderate sun locations, about five acres of panels are needed to produce a megawatt. A megawatt is one million watts, and enough energy to power 650 residential homes for one day.
California is the number one solar farming state in America, producing enough solar energy to power well over one million homes. In the next tier of solar states is North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts, Arizona and New Jersey, with enough capacity to power between 38,000 and 50,000 homes. Third tier states New York, Texas, Hawaii and New Mexico generate enough solar energy to power between 14,000 and 25,000 homes.
In the twelve months through October 2015, utility scale solar power generated 25.8 terawatt hours (a terawatt is a trillion watts), which was 0.63% of total U.S. electricity. In 2015, one third of all new energy generation in the United States was solar power. There are so many solar farms under production in the United States right now that existing capacity is expected to double by 2017.
If you are currently receiving rent for solar farm panels installed on your land, Landmark Dividend can monetize your lease if you need cash or want to pursue a real estate or business opportunity. If your site qualifies, we’ll buy your lease for a significant cash payment. For more information on a solar panel lease buyout, click here.