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Solar Engineering for Commercial and Utility-Scale Solar PV | KMB. Utility scale pv

Solar Engineering for Commercial and Utility-Scale Solar PV | KMB. Utility scale pv

    Utility-Scale Solar in Wisconsin

    Over the years we have become dependent on coal and natural gas to make over 70% of the electricity in Wisconsin. It’s worth noting that we don’t have any coal or natural gas reserves in Wisconsin, so we send away well over a billion dollars per year to bring these resources in.

    But the times are changing, and this is good news for Wisconsin.

    The cost of developing solar power projects has dropped by over 75% in the past decade. Solar power technology has improved, so that more of the sunlight is directly converted to power. This allows even a northern state like Wisconsin to be a viable place for generating solar power.

    Wisconsin utilities are partnering with companies that want to develop more clean energy at scale. With solar development comes an opportunity to restore soil health and enhance ecological services which will enable the land to be returned to agricultural purposes at the end of the solar project’s operating life. Furthermore, developers and landowners are exploring ways of integrating crops and livestock with a solar project— a concept called agrivoltaics. Below, we’ve answered some questions about Wisconsin’s evolving solar energy landscape.

    What is utility-scale solar?

    “Utility-scale solar,” “large-scale solar,” and “solar projects” are different terms that describe a solar power facility that generates enough electricity to serve many customers, as opposed to a single home or business. These facilities are typically located on open land and near an existing substation or electric transmission infrastructure.

    How do solar panels and solar projects work?

    Solar electric panels create electricity directly from sunlight. When sunlight hits the panels, semiconductors inside the solar panels are activated to produce usable electricity. In a solar project, many individual solar panels are grouped together to produce a large amount of electricity that feeds into transmission lines.

    In most cases, panels are mounted on “single-axis tracking systems.” Solar panels are attached to horizontal poles which run north to south. Throughout the day the panels rotate from east to west to follow the sun.

    The project equipment includes solar panels, racking, cables, inverters, transformers, and a power line or substation to deliver the power to the electric transmission grid.

    Are there any solar projects operating in Wisconsin today?

    Yes. There are more than 20 solar farms in Wisconsin that are presently generating electricity for utility use. Many of these are in the range of 1-5 megawatts of solar capacity. A one megawatt solar farm produces enough electricity annually to offset the needs of about 190 average Wisconsin homes.

    Who are the developers of these solar projects?

    Most solar projects in Wisconsin are developed by private companies that have developed renewable energy facilities in many other states. Among developers active in Wisconsin are: Invenergy, Savion, Tyr Energy Development, National Grid, and Samsung. Alone among Wisconsin’s electric utilities Alliant Energy is developing a solar portfolio consisting of a dozen projects totaling more than 1 gigawatt (1000 megawatts).

    Who uses the energy from these solar developments?

    Wisconsin electric customers do! Thus far, all solar projects built or proposed in Wisconsin are owned by, or sell their electricity to, Wisconsin electric providers. Among the providers purchasing solar energy and using it to serve their many customers are Dairyland Power Cooperative, Madison Gas and Electric, We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Xcel Energy, Alliant, and WPPI Energy.

    Are there new solar projects in the works?

    Yes. Several projects have been announced or have entered a permitting process.

    Why is solar energy being pursued as source of grid power?

    The most important drivers propelling solar power are its low cost relative to other resources and its relatively short development time. The cost of new large-scale solar generation has dropped to the point where it is cost-competitive today with existing fossil fuel power plants.

    How much land is required for solar projects?

    Typically, one megawatt of solar power capacity will cover approximately seven acres. In the normal course of project development, a solar developer will establish leases for additional land to provide more flexibility in laying out the arrays, routing interconnection corridors, and meeting state requirements for alternative siting options.

    What government agencies are involved in approving these types of projects?

    In the vast majority of solar power plants approved by the PSC, developers and affected local governments negotiated and entered into Joint Development Agreements (JDAs). The terms are binding on the parties. Examples of JDAs are available at the appropriate docket board on the PSC’s website (e.g., Portage Solar, 9810-CE-100).

    RENEW Wisconsin believes solar farms should remain zoned “agricultural” where applicable, with a conditional use permit to allow for solar energy generation. This is for two reasons. First, to increase the chances that the land will go back into agriculture after the solar project’s lifetime. Second, plantings under the arrays can be designed to support agricultural purposes such as supporting pollinators, rebuilding the soil, and provide similar functions as land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

    Solar farms sized 100 megawatts and larger also must gain approval from the State of Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission. This process is called a Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity, or CPCN.

    There are opportunities for public comment at the township, county, and state levels. These projects are reviewed by many government agencies to foster low-impact development and encourage community engagement.

    Electricity usage in Wisconsin has been relatively stable. Why are new solar projects needed?

    Wisconsin utilities have started retiring their older coal and natural gas plants and will accelerate plant closures over the next two to three years. That generating capacity needs to be replaced to maintain system reliability. Notwithstanding recent price increases, solar remains the most cost-effective replacement option for utilities and will become more so with the availability of new incentives included in the recently adopted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Assuming no major changes in pricing, the combination of utility-scale solar with battery energy storage systems (BESS) shapes up to generate considerable savings to utility customers without any disruptions to system operations.

    How does battery energy storage fit into Wisconsin’s electricity landscape?

    Using lithium-ion technology, battery energy storage systems (BESS) have advanced to the point where they can store large amounts of electricity for up to four hours. Over the normal course of operation, solar projects generate their maximum output in the middle of the day. BESS systems store some of that electricity for later use. Holding that generation in reserve enables solar plant operators to discharge that stored electricity later in the afternoon and early evening hours when demand for electricity usually peaks.

    How can solar farms benefit local governments?

    In Wisconsin, owners of solar farms greater than 50 megawatts pay annually into a utility aid fund which is shared with the local governments where the solar farm is located. Under the revenue sharing formula currently in place, a qualifying solar farm will contribute 2,333 per megawatt (MW) per year to the county and 1,667 per MW to the township(s) hosting the project, for a total of 4,000 per MW per year.

    For example, a 100 MW solar farm would provide approximately 233,000 annually to the host county and approximately 167,000 annually to the host township(s). Over the first 25 years of such a project’s operating life, over 10 million would be provided to the local governments where the project is located.

    For projects 50 megawatts are larger, the private land leased to a solar farm becomes exempt from local property taxes. Although this land will no longer pay property taxes, the net gain to the local governments is estimated to be at least 10 times higher than the lost property taxes.

    For example, a 300 megawatt project being pursued in Wisconsin has found that the property taxes currently paid to local governments amount to less than 100,000 for the land that would be transferred into a solar lease. In contrast, 1,200,000 will be paid annually to the local governments if the solar project is approved.

    How can solar farms benefit community residents?

    With a fresh flow of revenue generated from solar farms, local governments will have the option of either allocating those dollars toward essential public services, reducing property tax rates broadly, or both. A few Wisconsin jurisdictions that host renewable energy projects have used shared revenues to supplement their road maintenance and repair budgets, while others have augmented police and fire service through vehicle and equipment purchases. Utility local aid revenue has no strings attached to it, thereby enabling local elected officials to use their discretion to decide how the revenue can best serve their communities.

    Can hosting solar panels help agricultural land?

    Yes. The land that supports solar arrays can be revegetated with a range of low-lying, deep-rooted plants, grasses, and flowers that can rebuild the soil. In addition, these plantings can support honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators whose populations are facing threats.

    Is the conversion of agricultural land to solar generation permanent?

    No. Modern large-scale solar installations use steel posts that are driven or screwed into the ground, but do not use concrete pilings. This means that the land can very easily be converted back to farmland after the life of the solar project. The life of the project is estimated to be 25-40 years. Upon the conclusion of the lease and the decommissioning of the project, the landowner is able to resume traditional agricultural operations on the land.

    Notwithstanding the growth of farm-based solar generation across the United States, the total amount of agricultural land being used for solar energy is small compared with the permanent conversion of agricultural land to residential housing and commercial development.

    In fact, Wisconsin could produce about 50% of our annual electricity needs through the use of solar panels on only 125,000 acres of land. For comparison, according to the USDA, as of 2021 the total land in farms for Wisconsin was approximately 14,300,000 acres.

    Can solar panels withstand strong winds?

    Testing by solar manufacturers includes a certification that the panels can withstand winds of up to 140 miles-per-hour, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. In real-world performance, there are reports that nearly all solar panels located in areas hit by Superstorm Sandy (2012), Hurricane Michael (2016), and Hurricane Irma (2017), survived the high winds with few panels damaged beyond functionality. Any other losses were due to the destruction of an entire roof or structure.

    Are solar panels a safe technology?

    Yes. Solar panels are safe to touch, attach to your home, and install in your neighborhood or town. Panels are primarily made of glass, aluminum, copper, and other common materials. Solar projects also utilize steel racks to position panels, electrical cable and inverters and electric transformers to deliver power to the grid. All of this equipment is safe and contains the same materials that are found in household appliances. There are trace amounts of chemicals in solar panels that enable them to produce electricity. These compounds are completely sealed within the glass and coatings of the panels.

    After their useful life, solar panels and equipment are easy to disassemble and recycle. Solar facilities are constantly monitored, and the owners have a business interest in keeping them well-maintained and operating properly. Solar plants are designed to withstand severe weather, and panels are built to last for up to 40 years. If solar panels are damaged, they can be quickly replaced with new ones. (Credit for this QA: Illinois Solar Energy Association)

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    What is it like living next to a solar farm?

    Solar farms are quiet neighbors. They are a very low-impact development within communities.

    Unlike using natural gas or coal to generate power, they do not combust anything and thus have no pollution. They do not create any odors or output any chemicals.

    Solar farms use no water for their operation. This is also in stark contrast to using coal or natural gas to make electricity.

    The only audible noise is from cooling fans within equipment (inverters and transformers) that move the electric power to the grid, and those only operate when the sun is shining and power is being produced. After the sun goes down, there is no audible noise from the solar equipment.

    Native vegetation under the arrays can improve water quality and reduce runoff in the area.

    Will there be stray voltage from a solar farm?

    No. The collection and transmission lines used in these modern solar farm effectively prevent stray voltage. These lines are significantly different than what might be seen in local distribution systems or low-voltage wiring in sheds, barns, and dairy facilities.

    Will glare from the solar panels be a problem?

    No, this is actually a common misconception about solar PV modules. Solar modules are made to absorb sunlight, not to reflect it. Solar modules are flat, have a relatively smooth surface, and are covered with anti-reflective coatings. Modern PV modules reflect as little as two percent of incoming sunlight, about the same as water and less than soil or even wood shingles.

    What happens if there is snow on the solar panels?

    In larger solar farms, the solar panels rotate throughout the day. When they are tilted, snow will slide off on its own. If some portion of the panels are covered in snow, the remaining portion can still generate power and, in doing so, will generate some heat that will encourage melting of the rest of the snow.

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    How do solar panels produce power when it’s not sunny?

    At night the solar panels go into standby mode and do not produce any energy. However, even on cloudy days the panels are producing power.

    Can some of the solar power be stored in batteries to use at night?

    A “Battery Energy Storage System” (BESS) is a potential accessory to a solar project. Battery storage could provide many benefits, including:

    • Allowing the solar energy to be stored and released at different parts of the day
    • “Smooth” the output of solar electricity on partly cloudy days
    • Help maintain the proper frequency of electricity on the grid
    • Potentially could be used for backup emergency power

    How many jobs will be created to construct an operate a solar farm?

    As an example, a 300 MW project might create 500 new local jobs while in construction, and 5 operations and maintenance jobs once it is operational.

    Do solar farms protect the wildlife in the area?

    Solar PV projects by themselves do not present a significant risk to wildlife. When native meadow ground cover is used, the project will create new habitat for pollinating insects and birds, as well as improve water quality for local aquatic species. Projects are also required to install fencing, which keeps wildlife out and reduces risk to animals in the area.

    Are the solar panels or any of the other components made in Wisconsin?

    Although we do not have any solar panel manufacturing in Wisconsin, many of the parts needed to build and operate solar farms are indeed made in Wisconsin. See a list of products manufactured in Wisconsin for large solar projects.

    Solar Engineering for Commercial and Utility-Scale Solar PV

    The cost of solar has fallen more quickly than most experts predicted, particularly in commercial and utility-scale applications. Breakthroughs in technology that could lead to the development of solar panels that work at night, coupled with larger, more efficient factories producing modules and expanded RD efforts, are leading to commercial price reductions and improvements on the return on investment (ROI) for utility-scale solar applications.

    While commercial solar has been growing in popularity for the better part of a decade, the year 2020 will likely go down as a tipping point for utility-scale solar PV. 2020 was a record-breaking year for solar — a particular feat considering the pandemic upended lives and changed so many people’s routines, both at home and at work.

    The uptick in utility-scale solar PV that began in 2020 wasn’t temporary. It continues today, as more companies discover the benefits of commercial solar.

    Utility-Scale Solar PV

    The utility-scale solar sector is the primary driver of growth in the solar industry today.

    Nearly three-quarters of the solar capacity installed in 2020 was filled by the utility-scale sector. Of that capacity, more than one-quarter was installed in the last year. Solar power has become the second largest source of U.S. electricity-generating capacity additions, as well.

    While the U.S. continues to build new natural gas power plants, these plants account for a small capacity in 2022. power in the U.S. is now coming from wind and solar than ever before, with each of these sources contributing about 40% of the capacity.

    Commercial Solar Penetration Rates in the U.S.

    Compared to the electricity system as a whole, solar still only makes a modest 3% to 4% of all electricity running through the grid. However, in certain states, solar penetration is much higher.

    Solar power now exceeds 25% of annual power generation in California and is spreading rapidly in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia.

    How much of the U.S. electricity comes from solar depends on how you slice the data and whether or not you FOCUS on concentrated solar power.

    In 2020, Texas led the nation in utility-scale solar deployment. Texas has completed some of the largest utility-scale solar projects ever seen in the U.S. in recent years, generating up to 410 megawatt AC (MW). Texas is also home to one of the largest utility-scale solar projects in the country.

    Single-Axis Tracking

    The majority of new commercial solar projects use single-axis tracking in 2022. Unless the ground in a particular area is especially challenging, single-axis tracking technology provides solar engineering firms with a more comprehensive, efficient solution.

    Single-axis tracking has been exceeding fixed-tilt installations since 2015. The technology achieved a new level of dominance in 2020, when 89% of all new capacity began using single-axis tracking.

    Even solar projects in high latitude states, like Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York now use this technology.

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    Solar and Storage Hybrids

    Another big trend in the solar engineering field has to do with solar and storage hybrids.

    Solar and storage hybrids began growing in popularity starting in 2020. While these are still the minority of projects, experts now predict that within the next decade there may be a boom in hybrid power plants.

    As of June 2022, 1,400 gigawatts of proposed generation and storage projects had applied to connect to the grid, according to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. than one-third of those projects involve hybrid solar plus battery storage.

    The combination of solar modules and battery storage allows hybrid plant operators to provide power when demand is strongest. Batteries also help smooth out production from wind and solar power, along with storing excess power that would otherwise be dropped.

    Solar Deployment Trends

    Costs for commercial solar projects have continued to drop. The median installed cost of PV has fallen by 74%, or 12% annually since 2010, according to the Electricity Markets and Policy Group. The lowest 20th percentile of project costs began to fall in 2019. Today, even the expensive outliers have become less common.

    Larger utility-scale solar projects (100 MW to 500 MW) now cost 17% less than smaller projects (5 MW to 20 MW) per MW of installed capacity. The difference in project size explains the cost variation.

    For the most up-to-date pricing information for commercial and utility-scale solar PV, call the solar engineering experts at KMB Design Group at 855-75-KMBDG (855-755-6234).

    Utility-Scale Solar Farm Vs. Small Solar Farm

    The solar farm is an extensive collection of solar panels that generate electricity for the grid. They are also called photovoltaic power stations, solar gardens, solar parks, or solar power stations.

    Some solar farms use the area on the top of residential or public buildings, like parking spaces. However, PV panels are usually placed directly on the ground in solar farms. This type of solar farm requires a huge open area for construction.

    For decades, utility-scale solar has produced reliable and clean energy at an affordable fuel price. The construction of solar power plants can maintain a balance between environmental preservation, energy needs, and climatic objectives.

    Solar energy can keep generating jobs around the globe and diversify the energy supply by enacting government regulations that will increase the growth of utility-scale solar. Developing utility-scale solar power is one of the quickest ways to cut carbon emissions and move your business toward a sustainable energy future.

    What is a Utility-Scale Solar Farm?

    Defining utility-scale solar farms is challenging because it depends on location, size, voltage and commercial solar interconnection type, final sale location, state laws, and solar electricity method.

    Utility-scale solar farms typically produce 5 MW of power or less and are bigger than community solar farms. They cover acres of ground and have thousands of individual solar panels. These PV power project designers often arrange the panels to create eye-catching forms because they are big enough to be seen from an aircraft. For instance, Walt Disney World designed a solar farm and shaped it as Mickey Mouse.

    A primary distinguishing feature of the utility-scale solar farm is that they sell the electricity directly into the electrical grid. Utility-scale solar projects are usually in front of the meter as opposed to distributed generation systems behind the meter.

    It is a system matched with the facility’s energy load and directly provides the facility with electricity. The utility-scale solar facility uses solar energy to produce electricity and feeds it into the grid to power a utility.

    Almost all utility-scale solar installations have a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a utility, ensuring a market for their electricity for a specific period.

    The Capacity of Utility-Scale Solar Farm

    Since 2010, the photovoltaic sector has experienced Rapid expansion. By the end of 2018, at least 480 gigawatts of installed solar PV capacity worldwide. In many areas, most of the newly added capacity comes from utility-scale installations rather than distributed systems.

    By 2050, according to some recent projections, solar energy will generate nearly 60% of the world’s electricity. The size and amount of power produced by utility-scale solar farms set them apart from other distributed solar choices.

    Utility-scale solar farms are solar arrays that can cover many acres of land and have a capacity of up to 1 GW. According to the Solar Industries Association, utility-scale solar installations are now more than a total of 37,000 MV, with another 12,000 MW in development.

    Power purchase agreements (PPAs), often used instead of farm ownership by the utility, are used to sell the energy produced to utility buyers. The energy can then be sent to residential or commercial users who are connected to the electric grid by utility companies.

    What is a Small Solar Farm?

    Residents around a small solar program split the output of a single sizable solar installation called a solar farm or community solar farm. You can sign up for a local or commercial solar farm to start receiving solar energy credits from your utility to reduce your electricity costs.

    Small solar uses state renewable energy subsidies to help businesses, tenants, and homeowners cut costs while promoting solar energy in their neighborhoods.

    Community solar programs provide a method to participate in the renewable energy revolution and save money for individuals who cannot put rooftop installations on their own houses owing to the initial cost, roof restrictions, or the fact that they don’t own their property.

    Local solar farms built with community solar in mind are available for residents to join, allowing them to earn solar energy credits to lower their electricity bills.

    Hundreds or even thousands of households can be powered by the energy produced by these massive systems. Even though you aren’t receiving solar energy directly into your home, you are helping in adding that solar energy to the general grid.

    Small solar farms can be built in various locations, some of which are vacant. Solar gardens can also be built in landfills and industrial areas. However, they can be outside the center of a sizable open field.

    Solar panels can also be built on public structures, including parking lots which act as shared solar systems in several cities. All of these configurations are categorized as community solar systems.

    How Does a Small Solar Farm Work?

    You can profit from solar power without installing rooftop solar panels with the help of community solar. Clean energy is pumped into the grid by nearby solar farms; locals and companies can subscribe to a farm and receive credit for a portion of its power.

    Government incentives have made these incentives available for citizens; you can gain a discount on your electricity expenses when you receive these credits; it is like a price for doing good deeds. A utility, a nonprofit organization, a regulatory body, or a business established mainly to construct and operate a solar farm can initiate or manage a solar community project.

    The owner will collaborate with solar developers to choose a suitable location, acquire the necessary licenses, and begin construction. The construction procedure may take months.

    The owner then extends an invitation to members of the neighborhood to participate in funding the solar installation by purchasing shares or subscribing to the project. To identify subscribers and oversee their entire project subscription experience, we operate on behalf of the solar farm owner.

    When a solar farm is finished, it is joined to a local utility and starts supplying solar energy to the grid of that utility. An electric meter measures the farm’s energy output, converted by the utility into a financial value known as solar credit.

    Your monthly community solar membership will produce these credits, eventually reducing the electricity cost on your utility bill. You will continue to pay your current utility company for electricity. Because you are not directly receiving power from the solar farm, joining a solar community program has no impact on your utility or electricity supply. But because of the credits, your bill is reduced.

    Consider it a reward for protecting the environment. By promoting solar energy in your state, you’re assisting everyone’s transition to a cleaner, more reliable electric system. Your state offers you a discount on your energy costs in exchange.

    To be clear, you do not personally own any part of the farm or its panels if you subscribe to community solar. But because it produces renewable energy, you get a portion of the credits it generates.

    The Capacity of a Small Solar Farm

    Regardless of the physical characteristics or ownership of your home or business, community solar enables equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy generation. In other words, community solar might be an excellent choice for enjoying the savings and advantages solar brings if you cannot install solar directly on your home.

    Small solar installations typically have an electricity capacity of fewer than five megawatts (MW) and range in the number of acres they affect. Small solar installations often take place on leased land. Unlike residential housing and commercial development on a sold-off farm piece, you can restore the land to its original state.

    Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) supports the following concepts in its promotion of solar community policies, initiatives, and practices:

    • It gives all the consumers a chance to participate and directly profit economically from developing and managing new clean energy assets.
    • It gives developers equitable opportunity to construct, manage, and connect community-owned renewable energy systems to the grid of the supplying utility.
    • To stimulate innovation and deliver the finest customer service, it encourages the participation of various client types in the marketplaces for renewable energy sources.
    • It ensures that program operations and maintenance will continue to guarantee the overall quality, the longevity of the facility, and the safety of customer involvement.
    • It maintains the benefits of the program’s continuity to safeguard customers’ and developers’ investments.
    • It assures complete and accurate disclosure of customer risks and benefits in a uniform, the comparable way that gives consumers visibility into performance and costs.

    To minimize client risk and ensure customer safety, abide by all applicable securities, tax, and consumer protection regulations. Also, encourage collaboration with utilities and open, non-discriminatory utility laws for project siting and connectivity to facilitate effective interconnection and siting.

    Keep an overall perspective of the community-shared renewable energy market and ensure each partner benefits from the alliances created between the utility, the developer, and the subscriber.

    Learn From Coldwell Solar

    Utility-scale solar supports a large collection of solar panels, while small-scale solar projects facilitate residents and locals. With the help of small solar, more individuals can now directly profit from solar energy and take advantage of state renewable energy incentives. Solar energy is a perfect solution for green and clean energy to keep the environment and everyone’s health in check.

    If you want to join a community solar or start a utility-scale solar power, contact Coldwell Solar for more information.

    Utility-Scale Solar Power

    Greenhouse gas emissions are a top concern in the United States and other countries around the globe. Emissions numbers climb higher and higher over time. While 2019 saw a 1.7% decrease from the year prior, the U.S. still produced 6,558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.

    Continuing to reduce emissions totals is crucial for long-term ecological health. We must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to prevent the planet’s average temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius. This increase would cause irreversible changes to the climate.

    Electricity generation is one of the U.S.’s largest areas for improvement, accounting for 32% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. Organizations and companies like Solar Alliance are actively promoting strategies to reduce emissions from electricity generation. Utility-scale solar panels are a cost-effective and timely tool that can minimize carbon dioxide equivalent emissions before it’s too late.

    What Is Utility-Scale Solar?

    Utility-scale solar is a method for reducing carbon dioxide emissions that is gaining traction in different areas of the U.S. Utility-scale solar facilities aim to decrease emissions by transforming solar energy into electricity, distributing it and storing it for future use more efficiently than ever before. Unlike some solar energy facilities, utility-scale plants feature panels that can adjust to the sun’s position and batteries to store electricity when sunlight is scarce.

    Utility-scale solar plants are larger than any commercial or residential project, producing between 1 and 5 megawatts of power at a given facility. There are currently over 12,000 utility-scale solar projects in the U.S., combining to create roughly 47 gigawatts — with another 115 gigawatts worth of projects in development.

    Rather than using the energy on-site, utility-scale solar plants sell their energy at a fixed rate to utility companies, which distribute it to their customers. Some plants also create power for massive corporate facilities. Utility-scale solar plants can offer affordable rates for buyers thanks to efficient, low-cost generation methods.

    There are two primary forms of utility-scale energy generation — photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP):

    • Photovoltaic (PV): PV solar panels harvest the sun’s energy by utilizing semiconductors that naturally convert photons into electricity. Because PV panels naturally transform energy, plants don’t need to use the power they produce on-site. The sun’s photons activate the semiconductors’ electrons to send electricity to the grid. PV panels are space-efficient, allowing plants to produce utility-scale energy in a limited area.
    • Concentrating solar power (CSP): CSP panels produce energy by using mirrors that concentrate the sun’s energy in a specific location. These mirrors direct thermal energy toward a steam turbine that produces electricity. The turbines are compatible with storage systems that allow plants to distribute electricity day and night.

    Power Purchase Agreement

    Utility-scale solar energy presents a path forward for a nation seeking to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the logistics must be in place for the method to work to its full effect. That’s where a power purchase agreement (PPA) comes in. A PPA is an arrangement where a developer designs a utility-scale solar facility, acquires the necessary permits, helps secure financing and eventually installs the panels at the customer’s location.

    Under a PPA, the developer sells the electricity it produces to the customer at a fixed rate that is usually lower than the customer’s other options. The client can then sell the electricity to their own residential and commercial customers. Developers can offer low fixed rates because utility-scale solar panels are inexpensive to install and efficiently produce a lot of electricity. The utility companies’ PPAs spread access to sustainable energy and result in lower for consumers.

    Benefits of Utility-Scale Solar

    Utility-scale solar power yields benefits for each party involved in the process, from developers to utility companies down to residential consumers. Utility-scale energy from Solar Alliance produces advantages like:

    • Fixed rates and affordable prices: Utility-based solar power leads to stable electricity for both utility companies and their consumers. Energy producers have more access to and control over solar energy than other non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, meaning they can keep consistently low.
    • Solar efficiency: Many solar panels that utility-scale plants offer have features that maximize their production. Some panels can turn to follow the sun throughout the day, while others are bifacial, with solar cells actively collecting photons on each side. It’s also easy to connect the equipment at a utility-scale plant with storage batteries for later distribution, making it possible to use the full amount of electricity produced.
    • Corporate environmental stewardship: Combating climate change is a global responsibility, but businesses have the power to affect great change. It takes a lot of energy to run a business, so switching to utility-scale solar is a great way for companies to contribute to national emissions reduction goals. Businesses can also see an influx in customer engagement when they publically show their commitment to sustainability.
    • Low operational costs: Utility-scale solar uses panels that naturally convert the sun’s rays into electricity. As a result, companies can produce energy without paying for other systems that aid in the process. Solar panels are self-sufficient, so there are few costs beyond installation.
    • Minimal carbon emissions: Ultimately, the end goal of our utility-based solar offerings is to contribute to the fight against rising greenhouse gas levels. With utility-scale solar, the U.S. can reduce carbon emissions over time to hopefully avoid irreversible climate damage. If 20.3% of the world’s electricity production switched to utility-scale solar by 2050, we could avoid producing 42.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases. When that number increases to 25%, the greenhouse gas avoidance rises to 119.1 gigatons.

    Ask About Utility-Scale Solar Today

    Utility-scale solar panels create an energy system that provides ecological and financial benefits at every level. At Solar Alliance, we can provide the equipment you need to institute an effective utility-scale solar plan for your business. Our team will work with you to determine your energy needs and help you work toward your emissions goals. For more information on our solar panels, submit an online contact form and start a conversation with the Solar Alliance staff.

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