One of the biggest crises that the world has faced is the energy crisis. With most of our electricity, industries, and transportation relying on non-renewable energy, the world’s oil and gas reserves have reached an all-time low.
Renewable energy is an excellent alternative to energy derived from oil because it is unlimited. Examples of renewable sources include hydro, solar, tidal, biomass, geothermal, and wind energy, with solar being the most popular.
So, what is a solar farm? Simply put, it’s a way of harvesting solar energy and converting it into electricity.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar power is the most abundant type of energy available. On average, the solar energy that hits the Earth’s surface in an hour can be used to power the planet’s energy requirements for a year. According to a Canadian study, almost 70% of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface
Imagine how much solar energy is wasted every day! Gone are the days when solar energy was too expensive to consider a viable source of green power. These days, you can see many houses off the grid that are solely powered by solar energy.
Not only have solar panels become more efficient at harvesting power, but they have also become cheaper and can be used as a sustainable means of generating electricity. Around a decade ago, solar panels were merely 12% efficient versus panels that can reach up to 30% efficiency in the near future.
How is Solar Power Harvested?
Harvesting solar power is a more complex process than it seems, so we’ll just give you the summary.
While it is a simple system to set up, solar power is a remarkable feat of engineering. A solar panel comprises of photovoltaic cells that activate when exposed to sunlight. An electric field is generated around these cells, which is then stored as electrical energy in batteries.
Small Scale Solar Power
You might not know it, but things as basic as calculators are equipped with solar cells to harvest solar power. At a slightly larger scale, you can find appliances that use solar power, such as:
- Outdoor lights
- Swimming pool heating
- Water heaters
Other uses of solar power include people powering their whole house by using it. Charging electric vehicles and operating agricultural farms are other common uses of solar energy. All applications of solar power involve using one or multiple solar panels to store energy.
Large Scale Solar Power
On a larger scale, solar energy is harvested in solar farms that send power to the grid. Homeowners can buy this electricity and use green energy without installing solar panels in their homes.
What is a Solar Farm Though?
Generally made on privately owned land, solar farms generate and sell electrical energy to local power suppliers. This electricity is then sold to power factories and other buildings to reduce carbon emissions. Solar farms use one of two major solar technologies:
- Concentrating Solar Power.
Solar farms contain many solar panels that absorb heat energy to produce electrical energy to send to the grid. The solar panels in a solar farm are generally placed on the ground rather than on roofs.
Based on the size, there are two types of solar farms:
- Community solar.
Those solar farms that provide solar power to the grid are called utility-scale farms. Generally, all solar farms are utility-scale, and so are some homes that generate excess solar power.
Solar farms that are smaller in size and generate around 5 MW of power for a specific community are called community-scale farms. The energy produced by these farms is not available to anyone outside a set geographic region.
Are Solar Farms Expensive to Set Up?
Despite their higher initial installation costs, solar farms are fairly cost-effective. To keep a solar farm operational requires a very minimal amount of maintenance cost annually. The major maintenance comes from keeping the solar panels clean to maximize their efficiency.
Solar panels need to be washed and cleaned with a soft cloth or sponge to prevent any dirt or debris from accumulating on top of them. When dirty, solar panels become less efficient because sunlight cannot reach the cells as effectively. A study conducted in New Zealand reveals that dirt can reduce solar cell efficiency by up to 40%.
Are Solar Farms Important?
Solar farms harness the sun’s otherwise wasted energy potential. Apart from the obvious benefit of producing green energy, solar farms offer several benefits.
- Solar farms have few moving parts; therefore, they do not generate noise pollution.
- Their low maintenance cost means that you can invest in other projects for a cleaner environment. The lower frequency of replacing parts means that lesser natural resources are used while setting up these farms.
- These farms are generally constructed on flat grasslands where no wildlife is disturbed.
Solar farms reduce our dependency on non-renewable resources and encourage a green lifestyle. Not only are reserves of non-renewable sources of energy-depleting, but using them also causes environmental damage as greenhouse gases are released into the environment and cause global warming.
Renewable energy involves harnessing the power of natural elements and converting it into electrical energy. Since this process does not involve burning natural resources, the environmental impact of solar farms is minimal.
Our Final Thoughts
So, what are solar farms? They’re the future that shows a greener future. With the rising popularity of electric vehicles and other technology that reduces our dependency on non-renewable energy sources, there is an increased awareness and demand for green power.
Since most solar farms are privately-owned, you can invest in one to help clean up the environment and generate additional passive income. We aren’t far from a time when solar energy will become the norm to power most homes.
Solar power fulfills about 3% of the total grid powered by solar energy in the US, and the numbers will keep increasing with time. As awareness spreads about solar power’s financial and environmental benefits, more people will switch to it, and there will be a greater investment in solar farms.