Photovoltaic projects: what are solar farms?

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Photovoltaic projects: what are solar farms?

Photovoltaic projects: what are solar farms?


Energy Climate change 5


Solar farms, solar parks, photovoltaic gardens... there are various names for it, but what are solar gardens really? Are there any solar gardens in Spain? Let's find out more about them.

In the latest article we saw that in Spain we are very privileged as far as hours of sunshine are concerned, as we enjoy more than 2,500 hours of sunshine all year long. However, due to very adverse legislation, such as, for instance, the controversial sun tax, the self-consumption trend did not kick off before the end of the decade.

Aquatic solar park in South Corea 2021

Source: Energía Hoy. Solar water farm in South Korea.

The situation today, fortunately, allows the development of different photovoltaic projects with the purpose of progressing in this technology and increasing the renewable energy generation capacity to decarbonise the economy and ensure an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. The aim is to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda, including the reduction of the carbon footprint.

What are solar farms?

Solar or photovoltaic gardens, farms or parks are large areas of land on which there are several interconnected solar panels to generate energy for different uses, such as the supply of urban complexes, for self-consumption, industries or even to sell it to the electricity grid. This type of installation can be found on uninhabited land, such as deserts or plains, as well as on large areas of water because of the buoyancy of some panels.

The concept of the solar garden comes from the similarity of the traditional vegetable garden, where the sun provides the necessary energy for the development of the crops. In this case, what is grown is not of vegetable origin, but the same principle of taking advantage of solar radiation is applied, in this case, for the production of green energy. Many solar parks are made up of several groups of panels owned by various investors who work together to obtain energy in a profitable way thanks to the fact that, like sunflowers, they can be twisted in search of the highest possible solar gain.

The origin of the world' s first solar power plant is even older than you can probably imagine. We are going back to 1913, in Maadi, near Cairo, Egypt, where the American engineer and pioneer of solar energy Frank Shuman devised a system for collecting solar radiation to supply crops near the Nile by pumping 6,000 gallons of water from the river, about 23,000 litres per minute. The system used to operate by arranging water in semi-circular structures that reached boiling point and drove turbines that could produce around 41 kW of power. This installation was eventually destroyed in the First World War and was never made ready again due to the finding of oil, easier and cheaper to obtain. Years later in the 1980s, California was home to the world's first modern solar farm, now non-functioning, but which planted the seed for future projects worldwide.

First ever solar park in Egypt 1913

Source: Ecoinventos.com. First ever solar park in Egypt, 1913.

Is a solar farm worthwhile?

Yes.

This way of generating electricity has risen in number as the cost of solar panels has gone down. For many years it has not been a viable option because the taxes and regulations in Spain were not very helpful for the development of this technology. Nowadays, however, legislation is pushing the energy transition and allows this type of project.

Furthermore, another reason why it is profitable is that by installing these solar panel farms in uninhabited places, they are making a profit from a space that was not economically productive in any way, so that it is a method of generating wealth from where none existed.

The output capacity of the first photovoltaic farm (California) was 1MWp, the equivalent of 900 homes' electricity needs.

These photovoltaic farms have the potential to produce at least 1MWp with 3,000 panels, i.e. 1,000 kilowatts of power. An average Spanish household consumes about 3,500 kW per year, according to data from the report Consumption in the Residential Sector in Spain, which shows that only with the minimal average capacity of a solar farm, we would cover the energy consumption of practically a four-month average Spanish family, or the power consumption of up of 900 households daily. However, in 2019, many projects were built in the USA that are able to produce up to 200MWp, i.e. 200,000 kW, sufficient to supply energy to 180,000 homes per day.

In addition, as in most markets, the bigger the project, the more profitable it can be, as production expenses are lower and it can be a lure to reduce the final price for the developers.

How a solar park is worth?

We already know solar parks are installations with many solar panels that are very cost-effective because the price has been closely adjusted and due to their high MW generating capacity for several uses. But, which is the price of the solar farm in 2021, the land on where to install it?

La Opinión de Murcia reported an article at the beginning of March where it was reported that the green energy producers sector was becoming concerned about the current situation in Murcia. The owners of the land are often foreign investment funds that are putting pressure on the owners of the land, often from the agricultural sector for obvious reasons of owning large areas of farmland. As a result, speculation on these plots of land is increasing the prices per hectare per year to over 2,000 euros in many cases, whereas in the past, they were paid for about 1,000 euros.

So the price of solar farms is different in each individual case and factors outside the world of renewable energy can come into play.

Are there any solar farms in Spain?

Yes.

This kind of technology exists in our country as well. Last year in Catalonia there were over 200 requests for this type of project. In Andalusia, the land of the sun par excellence in the country, 14 new photovoltaic plants of this type were installed, though there are more than 300 requests. In Murcia, as we have seen, there are also several projects, as well as in Alicante, the Canary Islands, Aragon, Castilla-La Mancha and many other locations throughout the country.

This solar park fever has alerted environmental groups and inhabitants of towns close to the selected areas, who criticise the environmental impact generated by the installation of a massive number of solar panels. This is confirmed by a guide issued by the Junta de Andalucía, which highlights the greater impact when they are located in strategic areas for wildlife. In addition, these groups point out; the visual impact is another harmful effect on the territory, as they can break the harmony of farmland or other landscapes.

SOURCES

  • Holaluz
  • Los Angeles Times
  • EcoInventions
  • Svea Solar
  • Suncore
  • Ambientum
  • La Opinión de Murcia
  • La Vanguardia
  • elDiario.es

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