How A Solar Farm Works

Solar Farm: a large land area where multiple ground-mount solar tracking towers are installed. Can be on a working farm or other open and mostly unimproved land.

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When we discuss our Solar Farm offering, almost everyone asks “How does the power get from the solar farm to my house?” Well, the simple answer is “It doesn’t go to your house.” That seems confusing, so we’ve written this explanation.

Solar on Your House

Let’s start at the beginning, because that’s where the confusion starts. If we put solar panels on your house (e.g. on your roof), the power does not go to you. That’s right: the power goes into the utility grid, not to you.

One reason for this is that your solar panels produce most of their power at a different time from when you need power. For example, your solar panels may be close to maximum output at 11am, but you are at work and your house hasn’t heated up enough to switch on the air conditioner. If your solar panels were just for you, this power would be wasted.

Now, you might think, “Well, then store the power in some batteries!” That’s a good idea in principle, but in fact there are two drawbacks. Batteries big enough to store this extra power cost a lot of money, making solar power much less financially attractive. And the batteries waste a lot of power, so you need even more batteries and more solar panels (for which you may not have the roof space).

Sell Your Power So Someone Else Can Use It

Instead of trying to use the electricity from solar panels just to power your refrigerator and computer and air conditioner etc., the solar panels are used to create power that you sell back to the electric utility. Someone else uses the power you make.

When we put solar panels on your roof, you get a second meter. You have your original meter, and you buy all the electricity you use from the utility, just like you did before you had solar. The second meter measures the power your panels make, and the utility pays you for the power that goes out through this meter. You are a consumer just like you were before, but you are also a producer (a sort of mini-utility).

You’re Covered By Dollars, Not Electrons

So, almost all solar residential systems are designed to cover your power needs in a financial sense, not in an electrical sense. Your panels should make about enough power so that, when you sell that power to the utility, they pay you enough to cover your bill for power used (which is the same as it was before). If your electric bill is $2000 per year now, after you install solar it will still be $2000, but you’ll also get paid about $2000 for power generated (this depends on the size of your solar system). Your net bill is zero, or at least it is lower.

Hopefully it is clear now that with solar on your roof you are a consumer of electricity just as you always were. And you’re a producer of electricity. The electricity that you produce pays you. Your power is used by someone else which in turn reduces the need for the electric utility to buy fossil fuels to power its generators (the more you and other solar panel owners produce, the less they generate from coal or natural gas).

Solar Farm Works the Same Way

Now, what about that solar farm? Once you see that when you “go solar” you are an electricity producer, you might ask, “why do the panels have to be on my house?” And the answer is “They don’t have to be on your house; in fact, they’d be better off on a solar farm.” The advantage of having them on the farm is that we can put the panels on big motorized towers (see picture above). The motors allow the panels to track the sun so they have higher electrical output. And towers are arranged so they don’t get shaded (shade reduces output).

The panels on the solar farm put power into the utility grid. Businesses and consumers use the power during the day. Fewer fossil fuels are burned. This is exactly what happens with the power from panels if they’re on your house. You get paid for power produced on the solar farm. Again, just like having the panels on your house.

Another advantage of having panels on the farm is aesthetic. While we can work with your architect to make solar panels look pretty good, chances are your house looks better as it is. With panels on the solar farm, your house is unchanged.  We also do any maintenance automatically. We don’t have to disturb you for access or call you when you’re on vacation.

Contact us to get a personal solar briefing and learn more about solar farms.

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