By Mirela Niculae

A solar farm represents a medium- to large-scale photovoltaic system built to supply the grid with clean, renewable energy. The energy captured by the panels installed on the farm goes through an inverter and is sent into the local energy grid. In most cases, the local utility company is buying clean energy from the solar farm (or farms) in order to reduce an area’s carbon footprint.

Who can build a solar farm?

Many solar farms are privately owned. According to Aaron Halimi, the CEO and founder of Renewable Properties, a San Francisco-based company that develops solar farms, the ideal land for a solar farm is relatively flat and is close to the energy grid infrastructure. “In addition to site-specific characteristics, we’re looking for land that’s located in an area where there’s a known path to permitting for solar,” he added.

Energy produced by the solar farm is sent to the grid in order to be distributed wherever it is needed. “At the end of the day, the more solar we have on the grid, the better, so a balance of utility, residential, and commercial applications are the appropriate approach” Halimi said.

If they don’t want to run a solar farm themselves, landowners could lease part of their property to a solar developer. This option allows landowners to profit without having to worry about the upkeep of solar panels.

Aerial view of a solar farm
Landowners can lease their extra acreage to solar farm developers (Credit: JiriCastka/Shutterstock)

How solar farms benefit the local community

Even though the presence of a solar farm has no direct influence on their utility bills, residents of communities with solar farms benefit from a more powerful energy grid. “The electrons generated from the solar farm are consumed at the nearest point and the homes that are near the farm benefit and consume the electrons being produced by the solar farm” Halimi explained. “The grid is stronger with power generation so close to where the power is being consumed.”

Unlike producers of fossil fuels, solar farms are not a nuisance. They’re quiet, they don’t require much assistance from local municipal resources and they don’t pollute the air.

Solar energy solutions for homeowners and renters

Because solar panels need optimum sunlight to create energy, they can’t be installed just anywhere. You need the panels to have a specific angle, in an area with easy access to sunlight. Even more, renters and people who live in apartments may not be able to install solar systems of their own.

This is where solar communities come in place – these are similar to a solar farm, only that they get capital from individuals and other investors, not specialized companies or industrial investors. The energy also goes into the grid, but the investors benefit from reduced energy bills based on their percentage of investment and the amount of energy sold by the community.

To invest in a solar community, all you have to do is pay the price of one or more solar panels that are already installed on the land. Prices may vary from one supplier to another, but it should be around $200 per panel (however, the ability to invest in a solar community depends on whether or not there are opportunities where you live).

This is a long-term investment, as the panels you buy now will generate power for about 15 to 20 years. For instance, one panel usually produces about $5 worth of energy per month, so the more solar panels you buy or lease, the more you’ll save on your energy costs. Additionally, investors in solar communities could qualify for  federal a tax credit.

Finally, if you install your own panels on the roof or somewhere on the property, you are responsible for maintenance and energy storage. If you invest in a solar community, those responsibilities are left to the farm owner or administrator.

Close-up of solar panels on a solar farm
If purchasing their own solar system isn’t an option, homeowners can purchase individual panels on a solar farm (Credit: nrqemi/Shutterstock)

Are solar farms and solar communities a good solution?

Solar farms bring more clean energy into the grid and provide better use for land that may not be so suitable for farming, allowing landowners to make the most of every acre. They’re also a fantastic way to harvest energy without polluting the environment.

Meanwhile, solar communities are an excellent solution for homeowners and renters who do not have space or the budget to install solar systems of their own. You will save money on installation costs, and you will ultimately save money on your energy bill while helping to reduce your carbon footprint.