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An Introduction to Solar Farms

What Is Open Road Renewables?

We’re a renewable energy company focused on developing best-in-class solar farms in the U.S. We work primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Ohio River Valley, and Texas.

Our founders have deep experience in solar farm development, with more than 20 solar farms in operation. We’re a privately held company with financial backing from a large investment fund long active in the energy infrastructure sector.

What is a Solar Farm?

A solar farm is a large group of solar panels installed on the ground that operate together as a power plant. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic panels, or “PV”, generate electricity from sunlight. Many solar panels are installed on the roofs of houses and other buildings, directly powering just those buildings. A solar farm, however, delivers large amounts of electricity to the existing high-voltage transmission system, which serves the entire region.

The solar panels in many solar farms are fixed in a position tilted toward the sun (in North America, this is to the south). The low end of these panels is usually a few feet off the ground and the high end typically is about 10 feet off the ground. In some solar farms, the panels rotate slowly from east to west throughout the day, tracking the path of the sun.

Why Are Solar Farms Being Constructed?

Several factors are spurring the development of solar farms. Solar panels produce “clean” energy—power with no air pollution, solid waste, or other environmental contaminants. Solar energy helps keep electricity prices stable because the amount of sunlight an area receives over time is relatively constant, and the price of the “fuel” is always zero. The large size of a ground-mounted solar farm also allows it to generate electricity at much lower costs than rooftop solar systems. Along with these advantages, recent technology improvements and stiff competition among panel manufacturers has dramatically reduced the cost of solar energy over the last few years. As a result, State leaders and electric utilities are interested in having more solar farms as part of their electric systems.

What Land Is Best Suited For A Solar Farm?

The best land for the installation of solar panels is clear, dry, relatively flat and has good soil. For these reasons, “tillable” land is often an excellent candidate to host a solar farm. The more ideal the land is for a solar farm, the less it will cost to build, making it more likely to be constructed.

How Much Land Is Needed For A Solar Farm?

Some solar farms now being developed are designed to be able to generate 50 to 100 “megawatts” of electricity. (A “megawatt” is equal to 1 million watts, enough to power about 300 homes.) From 5 to 8 acres of land is needed to generate each megawatt, so the total land needed for these larger solar farms is about 250 to 800 acres. Usually several landowners host a single solar farm of this size, which can produce enough electricity to meet the needs of 15,000 to 30,000 homes.

How Long Do Solar Farms Last, And What Happens At The End?

Solar farms operate for 30 to 40 years. At the end of that period, a landowner hosting one may want to reach a new arrangement under which the solar farm is “repowered” with newer technology, or the landowner may choose to have the solar farm removed. Solar farms require little or no concrete and so are relatively easy to remove at the end of the useful life of the equipment. (Anything below a depth of 3 feet usually is left in place because it will not impede other uses.) After a solar farm is removed, the land can be returned to its prior use, such as farming.

What Is It Like To Live Near A Solar Farm?

Unlike other power plants, solar farms make excellent neighbors. Solar farms are entirely self-contained—they use no fuel and create no air or water pollution. Solar farms have few moving parts, make virtually no sound, and have no odor. Solar farms also have a low profile, about the same as corn fields just prior to harvest.

What Are The Risks Of A Solar Farm?

Solar farms include some high-voltage electrical equipment like the kind connected to large power lines and electrical substations. For safety reasons, and to protect the valuable equipment, solar farms are fenced and access is limited to operating personnel.

How long does it take to study the feasibility of a solar farm?

Determining whether a solar farm is appropriate for an area takes several years of exploration and negotiations with other parties. For large solar farms, it usually takes about 3 years to conduct a variety of studies, including investigations of the sunlight, the electric transmission system, soil conditions,and natural resources. The entire process can take an additional year or two, depending on a variety of factors, such as unexpected issues with the land, delays in working with the utility company and the time needed to obtain various permits.

What happens to my land during the study?

During the study period, you can continue to use your land as it is currently being used with no effect on your current revenues. With the possible exception of the installation of a small instrument to measure sunlight, we would not occupy any of your land. We would occasionally need to access your land for studies and samples, but these visits would be brief and unobtrusive.

How Do I Get More Information?

Please reach out to us at your convenience.

You may contact us at (512) 524-1195 or via e-mail at: contact@openroadrenewables.com

We look forward to exploring this opportunity with you.