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Farms are traditionally known for cultivating crops or livestock, but there’s a process today that involves growing more than wheat and corn or raising cattle.
It’s an exciting concept in which farmland is now being used to produce power through the use of solar arrays.
Called solar farming or solar parks, the concept is fairly simple. It begins with placing a large cluster of photovoltaic solar panels on a cleared and sunny plot of land.
These are similar to the shiny panels used to collect sunlight, which is then stored in a battery bank or fed back to the power lines. These are often the same panels that you have likely seen on roofs of homes and other buildings.
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What Are The Benefits Of Solar Farming?
The list of benefits is long and varied.
Here are some examples of the positive effects:
- Solar farms do not cause air, water or land pollution like traditional fossil fuel power generation
- They are a clean, reliable energy source
- Solar farms are cost-efficient
- The sun is a fuel resource that’s not going to run out in the near future
Are People Safe Living Near Solar Farms?
Beliefs that living near even massive solar panels could pose a threat to human health have been put to rest. According to the World Health Organization, a 2022 study showed the electricity released by solar farming is very weak. What’s more, there is no proof whatsoever it is in any way harmful to human health.
However, there are impacts on the environment inherent to creating solar farms.
Clearing the large areas of land necessary for this can have an affect on the natural habitat for both wildlife and naturally growing vegetation. This includes native birds, bees and animals that lived on the wooded land before clearing.
It's also worth considering the solar panels themselves. Some of the materials used may not be the best for the environment, or are in limited supply.
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How Much Does It Cost To Build A Solar Farm?
The Solar Energy Industries Association publishes average costs for solar builds. This is priced out on a per-watt basis.
In Q4 of 2021, the average cost for a solar farm was a range of $0.89 to $1.01 per watt. Since there are 1,000,000 watts in a megawatt, the cost for the average 1 megawatt solar farm ranges from $890,000 to $1,010,000.
Long story short, be prepared to shell out one million dollars to get a decent solar farm operation going today.
How Long Will A Solar Farm Last?
Today’s solar farms can be expected to last up to 50 years. After that, owners will most likely need to upgrade with the newest technology.
This is only the beginning of the fascinating time of harnessing the energy of the sun as a clean, renewable source of electricity. Larger scale farms will continue to crop up, and equipment and maintenance costs will decrease. There is also an uptick in the number of community solar farms in which members share the costs, the energy and the profits from the land.
While you can have a solar farm built on as little as 7 acres, a larger plot of around 30 acres is considered ideal.
If you’re going to look into solar farming, definitely research the weather in the local area of your land. Cloudy days can decrease the energy the sun puts out by up to 80%!