As the name suggests, a solar farm is a ‘farm’ that harnesses solar power on a large scale. It is also known as a solar park or solar power station.
The difference from other conventional farms is that a solar farm’s photovoltaic arrays are in the ground instead of greenery. The PV arrays are usually mounted on the ground across large areas to capture the maximum sunlight possible.
Solar farms are different from rooftop solar panels, as the farms are very large-scale installations with great electricity generating capacities. Enough electricity can be produced to run a factory or even a township.
The usual reference to solar farms is a power plant that utilizes photovoltaic or solar panels to convert solar energy into electricity. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
We discuss that briefly in this article, along with other basic ideas related to solar farms.
What is the purpose of a solar farm?
The purpose of a solar farm can vary. Some are built for a utility-scale, meaning to run a factory or a single facility.
Some are built bigger to accommodate a small community’s needs, while some are up-scaled to power the main electric grid.
The latter would be for commercial purposes, where electricity is produced to be sold. Due to this type of solar farm’s sheer size, it is usually located in more remote areas, farther away from cities.
Benefits of a solar farm
- Low maintenance
- Zero noise pollution
- Wildlife conservation
- Cost-effective in the long run
What are the disadvantages of a solar farm?
- Take up huge land space.
- Expensive to build
- Weather dependant
- Solar panel waste
Further reading: Pros and Cons of Solar Farms
Solar farm systems
Whether a solar installation is for personal use or commercial use, a solar system has the same basic components to function:
- Solar or PV panel
- Solar inverter
- Electrical switchboard
A commercial system or solar farm would have more components:
- Metering system
- Power optimizer
- Battery bank
- Electric grid
- Distribution panel
Further reading: Components of a Solar Power System
Types of solar farms
There are 3 types of solar farm systems:
- Off-Grid Solar Power System or Stand Alone Solar Power Station
- On-Grid Solar Power System or Grid Tie Solar Power Station
- Hybrid Solar Power System
Any of the 3 systems mentioned above can be used to run different types of solar farms. The most conventional solar farm which comes to mind is usually the photovoltaic solar power plant.
However, there are actually 3 kinds of solar farms, all of which extract energy from the sun then convert that into electricity. The difference between them is in the technology used and how solar energy is converted.
They can be broadly categorized into three groups:
Solar farm land requirements
The size and nature of land needed for a solar farm depend on the type of solar farm or type of solar power plant.
If it is a solar pond, naturally, the farm or solar plant will need a large saltwater body. PV Solar Power Plants and Concentrating Solar Power Plants need vast land to put up thousands of solar modules.
In some countries, the shortage of land space to accommodate all these solar panels is addressed by creating floating solar farms. Examples of these can already be found in China, the US, and Japan.
Are solar farms a good investment?
The cost of installing the facilities of a utility-scale solar farm has been consistently dropping over time while the efficiency of PV cells increase in tandem with the development of newer photovoltaic technologies.
This was reported in an article that was part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2020. The findings presented show that solar is becoming cheaper and more affordable.
It is also expected to be an ‘unbeatable’ source of energy compared to fossil fuels. Aside from being good for the climate, solar farms also turn otherwise unproductive or vacant spaces such as deserts and lakes into power generators.
How to start a solar farm?
For a step-by-step guide on setting up a PV solar power plant, read our article: Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Solar Farm.
The prospect of solar farms is bright. And that’s not just because of the lower cost of production. More and more countries worldwide are seeing the economic and environmental benefits of using renewable energy. Check out our article on “Solar Farms in Australia.”
This is especially so for countries where fossil fuel and other non-renewable options are economically unsustainable in the long-run. There is a lack of infrastructure for these options to be made available.