- What is solar energy?
Solar energy is created from a solar panel comprised of solar cell units that absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. By harnessing the power of the sun, solar farms produce clean, emission-less, renewable energy.
- What is a megawatt (MW)?
A megawatt (MW) is a unit of power that measures the rate at which energy is generated or consumed. In the context of solar energy, a megawatt refers to the capacity or output of a solar power system. For example, if you have a solar power plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts, it means that under ideal conditions, the system can generate 100 million watts of electricity. The actual electricity output will depend on various factors, including the amount of sunlight available, whether a battery storage system is in place, and the efficiency of the solar panels.
- How many acres does it take to produce a megawatt of electricity?
On average, it takes 5-7 acres to produce 1 MW of electricity. A 200 MW project could be around 2,000 acres, but there may be additional considerations on where to place panels such as access to the project site and existing infrastructure.
- Are solar panels efficient in cold weather?
Yes. Cold, sunny weather is ideal for solar panels to produce energy.
- Aren’t solar projects eyesores?
While our solar projects may seem big on paper, our design team places panels in a way that produces minimal disturbance and preserves much of the natural landscaping. It is likely that you will drive past even the largest portions of the solar project in a matter of seconds with minimal visual impact. Typically, projects will have vegetation buffers in areas where they are most visible. Most projects use evergreen trees so that the buffer is consistent yearround, but community suggestions on which types of plants to use are always welcome.
- Do solar facilities create noise?
Solar projects are very quiet. Some electric components, such as inverters, make a quiet hum sound comparable to a window air conditioning unit. The inverters—devices that convert direct current (DC) electricity, which is what a solar panel generates, to alternating current (AC) electricity, which the electrical grid uses—are typically placed one hundred feet or more inside the project boundary and should not be audible at the fence.
- What happens when a solar project is decommissioned?
When a solar project is decommissioned, all of its components are removed and the land where the project was located is restored back to pre-construction conditions. Typically, solar panels are recycled or sold. More than 80 percent of the material in solar panels is glass and aluminum—both common and easy-to-recycle materials.
- What happens if a solar company goes out of business?
In the unlikely event that a project owner goes out of business, the solar facility would likely be purchased by another utility or power company. However, the project owner is responsible for setting aside funding before development begins to fully remove the facility and restore the site to its previous state should the project need to be removed prematurely.
- What are the Community Benefits of solar projects?
Long-Term Community Investment
At BayWa r.e., we value long-term partnerships. Every solar project is an opportunity for developers to engage with and support local communities and initiatives through partnerships with schools, fire departments, EMS services, libraries, local nonprofits, chambers of commerce, and volunteer organizations. Developers may also make additional commitments such as repairing and improving roads used during construction, and funding surrounding infrastructure upgrades.
Local Job Creation and Workforce Development
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the US, creating thousands of local job opportunities and supporting economic development through direct landowner lease payments, boosting community property and sales tax revenue, and generating indirect income for local businesses surrounding the project area. This is often tens of millions of dollars over the life of a project.
Whenever possible, BayWa r.e. partners with workforce development organizations to fund renewable energy education and training programs, which are made available to local residents free of charge. Participants are equipped with the skillsets to start new careers in utility-scale solar construction, operations, and maintenance, and are encouraged to apply for relevant positions with BayWa r.e upon course completion.
- Will my community get electricity from the project?
While we cannot determine exactly how the utilities will distribute power, it is very likely that if there are energy needs locally, the project power will help meet those needs. While we cannot determine exactly how the utilities will distribute power, it is very likely that if there are energy needs locally, the project power will help meet those needs.
- Will construction impact traffic?
Temporary traffic will be generated during the construction of a project, although these vehicles generally weigh less than normal loads like grain trucks. Once operational, solar farms typically do not impact traffic except for a small maintenance team and a handful of engineers who occasionally require access to the site.
Land & Property Usage
- Shouldn’t residents get a say in how the land is used?
Community members are encouraged to meet with project developers, ask questions, and be involved in decision-making. Community feedback is taken seriously, and we can often tailor project plans and provide additional opportunities based on the input we receive. While it is ultimately up to private landowners to decide how to use their land, solar projects are designed to have minimal impact on surrounding areas and bring an array of benefits to the whole community.
- Do solar facilities harm wildlife?
Developers are required to conduct extensive environmental reviews through several impact studies. Additional mitigation efforts are also common to reduce the impact on wildlife as much as possible, and many projects receive additional funding to support local ecologies such creating welcoming environments for local pollinator species.
- Will there be livestock kept on the property?
Whenever possible, BayWa r.e. swaps out heavy mowing machinery for sheep by partnering with local sheep farmers. The sheep enjoy the shade of the solar panels and can easily reach places where humans and machinery struggle to mow. This dual-land use model lowers maintenance costs, reduces environmental impact, minimizes hazards to solar panels, and increases soil health. Larger livestock tend to damage solar panels and are not currently recommended. Additional information on can provided by individual development project managers.
- Can solar construction activities damage drain tile?
While it is unlikely that construction of a solar facility would damage drain tiles, any tile damage that may occur during construction would be required to be repaired and replaced by the project owner or developer.
- Can land utilized for a solar project be used as farmland again after decommissioning?
Yes, the decommissioning process ensures that the land will be returned to its original state and landowners can decide how they want to use the land when that occurs.
Health & Safety
- Is solar energy safe for the environment and people‘s health?
Yes, electricity generated from photovoltaic (PV) solar panels is safe! Solar generation has little to no impact on the heath of the surrounding community, and land used for solar generation can be reverted back to its original state following the life of the project without fear of contamination or harmful impacts.
- Do solar panels cause cancer?
Electromagnetic radiation from solar panels (as with other electric devices like microwaves, x-rays, and radio waves) are minimal and do not cause cancer.
- Are toxic chemicals used to clean the panels?
No. Most projects do not use anything to clean panels and rely on rainfall for cleaningNo. Most projects do not use anything to clean panels and rely on rainfall for cleaning.
- Do solar panels create a glare? Can glare affect passing drivers or nearby homes?
Solar panels are designed to absorb the sun’s rays, not reflect them, and the panels are coated with an antiglare surface. Solar panels are regularly placed next to airports with no problems.
- Can solar panels withstand the elements?
Most solar panels are certified to withstand at least 139.9 mile per hour winds, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane or an EF 3 tornado. Solar farms are built in hurricane prone areas like Florida and in the Carolinas, and those built in these areas have withstood recent severe weather events.
- What does security look like for a solar project?
Solar projects are surrounded by fences that meet National Electric Code standards, and security cameras at the main entrances. Routine check-ins are conducted to monitor panels, landscaping, and general maintenance of the project sites.
- Do solar facilities increase the temperature around the solar project?
No. Although solar panels can warm up like any surface in direct sunlight, they return to ambient temperature at night. Panel spacing and the vegetation below and around the panels helps maintain ambient temperatures. Newer solar panel technology maintains lower temperatures even in direct sunlight.
- What is the fire risk at a solar facility?
Like any other utility scale electricity generation site, solar facilities have to comply with National Electric Code standards, local fire codes, and any other relevant safety standards. Solar panels do not pose any unique fire risk and are made almost entirely out of non-flammable materials. We work closely with local fire departments and assist in training firefighters on the site layout, access points, and how to respond in the unlikely event of a fire.