How to Start a Solar Farm? 13 Things (2022) You Should Know

If you have land and are interested in starting a solar farm, it’s doable!

But you need to know a few things first.

Here’s a look at how to get started.

1. What is a solar farm?

A solar farm is a large-scale photovoltaic system (PV system) designed for the supply of merchant power into the electricity grid.

These structures operate like power plants.

They’re decentralized and typically consist of ground-mounted solar arrays installed across large areas.

There are different types of solar farms, which will be discussed more in the next section.

2. What are the different types of solar farms?

There are two main types of solar farms: utility-scale and community solar.

Here’s what you should know about each of them and how they differ.

bulletUtility-scale solar farm

Utility-scale solar farms refer to massive areas of land where solar panels stretch beyond the horizon.

These installations consist of hundreds of thousands of solar panels that absorb energy from the sun, generate an electric current, and distribute that power on high-voltage power lines.

The electricity then travels along those power lines to the electricity grid and eventually finds its way to your home.

bulletCommunity-scale solar farm

These solar farms are small-scale solar facilities that generate around 5 MW of electricity for a local community of homes and businesses.

Whoever participates in the program shares the power.

Residents may see a reduction in the electricity bill depending on the number of residents and the amount of power produced.

Here’s how a community-scale farm works.

First, solar panels are installed in a large, open area of the neighborhood that receives maximum exposure to sunlight.

Next, solar energy is fed into the larger electricity grid for the region.

Finally, individuals who joined the solar program see their energy bill adjusted for the amount of energy generated in relation to the size of their home.

3. Why start your own solar farm?

Starting your own solar farm is a great use of land.

They help support clean energy goals and create healthier communities with access to affordable energy.

Plus, even if you’re not well-equipped to build or maintain a solar farm yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t lease out your land for solar farm use.

That’s still a great way to support the planet while making money.

If you have land that’s well equipped for a farm, then do the research and find out how you can lease your land to a third party today!

4. What are the pros of solar farms (and being near them)?

The solar industry is booming right now, and there’s no doubt why.

These are the benefits that solar farmers are seeing:

 bulletLowcost

For humans, living around solar farms can drastically decrease or completely eliminate your energy bill altogether.

This is a tremendous advantage for those that are near farms as the energy from them tends to go to those around them first.

 bulletEnvironmentally friendly

Solar farms are safe and healthy for wildlife.

These farms pose no danger to wildlife through chemicals or electricity in the ground.

Thus, they can safely cohabitate without any concerns.

Solar farms are also one of the best ways to get rid of carbon emissions.

This has a significant impact on the environment and ultimately creates a healthier world for everyone.

bulletRenewable energy source

Solar farms offer a renewable energy source because we are unlikely to run out of sunlight.

This means that the energy harnessed from the sun will always be available for use.

5. What are the cons of solar farms (and being near them)?

Wondering if there’s anything you should know before you invest in solar farming?

It’s not a seamless investment, and there are some things you should keep in mind.

bulletNot aesthetically pleasing

One of the main reasons that people dislike land near solar farms is because it can be a bit of an eyesore.

In fact, people worry that they’ll lower their home value or provide a terrible view outside their window.

As this is a personal preference, it can be a tricky topic to discuss when deciding where to place them in an existing neighborhood or community.

bulletPotential noise

Some people worry that solar farms will come with a bunch of noise like wind turbines.

Fortunately, one great thing about these farms is that they are virtually silent.

The only time you will see any type of maintenance on them is when they need to be repaired.

They’re also silent when operating.

bulletConcerns about too much electricity

While living next to a solar farm isn’t dangerous, there are some concerns that there will be too much electricity and that it could be dangerous to people’s health, functioning electronics, state of their home, etc.

The good news is that there’s no reason to fear living by a solar farm any more than you should fear living anywhere else.

bulletToxic chemicals

The photovoltaic manufacturing process utilizes toxic chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1, 1, 1-trichloroethane, and acetone.

Manufacturers must strictly follow laws and regulations, or these chemicals can introduce significant health risks, particularly to the manufacturing workers.

bulletWater use

One type of solar farm, a solar thermal power plant, is a water-intensive process.

While water can be reused, having a huge solar thermal farm in a single area can put a strain on the local water resources.

bulletLand use

Large utility-scale solar panels can take up significant space and contribute to environmental degradation and habitat loss.

Local flora and fauna, including birds, are likely to be impacted by solar farms.

Plus, unlike wind farms, solar farms aren’t able to share the land they occupy for other uses.

6. How much land does a solar farm need?

A 1 MW solar farm typically needs 6 to 8 acres with all the equipment and space between panel rows.

If you’re purchasing land specifically to start a solar farm, you should buy a plot with at least this much space.

7. How long does it take to build a farm?

Ultimately, how long it takes to build a solar farm will depend on the size of the solar project and the number of people working on it.

The actual building itself can often be completed in only a matter of months.

That said, if you include siting and permitting, the process gets a lot more complicated.

In fact, it can take 3 to 5 years to get all the necessary approvals and contracts completed for a solar farm.

Once the farm is complete and online, you’ll have to maintain it and service it about 3-4 times a year.

8. How much do solar farm leases pay?

As a landowner, you may choose to rent out your solar farm and earn money.

This option is best for those who don’t want to build their own farm but would rather lend out their property to an external solar farm developer.

If this is something you choose to do, you can earn between $250 and $3,000 per acre a year.

The exact amount will depend on what you negotiate and codify in the leasing agreement.

9. How much does solar installation cost per acre?

The cost of installing 1 megawatt (mw) of solar panels will typically run the landowner around 1 million dollars.

However, if solar farms are smaller (and many of them are) then they require less money to install.

For reference, 1 megawatt can typically power 200 households around the area.

10. How suitable is your land for a farm?

Not all land can accommodate a solar farm.

Land that is suitable for solar farming has many different requirements.

Here’s what you’ll need:

bulletHave flat land that faces south to serve as a sunny platform.

Recognize what may cause shade to the panels in advance.

bulletLook for power lines, access roads, drainage, etc. that can help facilitate your solar panels.

bulletUnderstand the different regulations and taxes.

Solar farms are just like regular farms in terms of regulations and taxes unless you qualify for any exemptions.

11. How do you remove solar panels?

Believe it or not, one of (if not the) most tedious part of the whole solar panel process is removal.

If you’re deciding to start a solar farm, then you’ll want to put solar panel removal in the contact with the solar company.

That way, you’ve already determined who is responsible for the removal of the panels and the cost of the removal at the end of their life.

Covering the dismantling costs early in the contract will protect the landowner (likely you) from any additional costs that may be associated with the removal process.

12. What do you need to start a farm?

If you’re ready to dive into this business idea, here’s how you can put your plan into action step-by-step.

bulletDo your research

Before you can get started on creating your own solar farm, you’ll need to understand the industry better first.

Got through all of the information above and dive deep into what you don’t understand.

Conducting thorough market research will help you understand a better picture of the reality of developing this type of project.

If you’re getting stumped, Google is your friend!

You can also reach out to experienced professionals in the solar farm industry and keep up with relevant solar news.

bulletWrite a business plan

Solar farming is ultimately a business.

Before you move forward, make sure your project has a solid foundation.

It will serve as a blueprint for structuring, running, and maintaining the solar panel farm.

Whenever you’re not sure what to do, your plan can give you clarity.

Make sure your solar farm business plan also includes finances.

Map out the cost to build a solar farm and an approximate return on investment (ROI).

bulletSelect and register a business name

In order to become legally recognized, you must register your solar farm with the government.

Choose a suitable name that reflects your solar business and then check to see if the name is available.

You’ll also want to register it as a domain name.

Our suggestion is to keep it short, simple, and SEO-friendly.

bulletGet licenses and permits

To remain legally compliant, you’ll require some licenses and permits.

Keep in mind that every state is different, but here’s a list that will get you started:

  1. Operating agreement
  2. Insurance policy
  3. Land conversion certificate
  4. Contract labor license

bulletFind suitable land

Ultimately, the efficiency of your solar farm depends on where it’s located.

Location will affect the overall cost of construction as well as the power produced.

All potential farm owners should get to know the area well before purchasing land. (And this is where Gokce Capital can help!)

Be sure to take note of the following factors before moving forward in the purchasing process:

  1. Proximity to grid infrastructure
  2. Amount of sunlight
  3. Quality of soil
  4. Renewable energy demand
  5. Solar farmland lease rates (if you want to lend out the property to a third-party solar developer)

bulletSet up the structure

Once you’ve figured out the basics and laid the foundation, now it’s time to start the solar farm.

A successful deployment of the photovoltaic power structures considers the potential challenges of implementations.

The structure is key to ensuring optimum operability and value in the long run.

13. What are the largest solar farms?

The solar industry is rapidly expanding, and solar farms are being built bigger and bigger.

This is due in part to the improved economics of solar energy generation and the desire of governments to switch to renewable energy to help with climate change.

Currently, the largest solar farm in the United States is called the Solar Star in Kern and LA Counties, California.

It’s been the biggest one in the country since its completion in 2015.

Its installed capacity allows it to produce 579 MW of energy, which is enough to power over 250,000 homes (about 142 football fields).

It comprises 1.7 million separate solar panels.

The Solar Star will soon be surpassed by the Gemini Solar Farm.

This is a $1 billion project currently under construction in the Moapa Desert, which is outside Las Vegas.

It will utilize the Nevada sunshine to generate 690 MW of electricity (enough to power 260,000 homes).

Once it’s complete, it will become the largest solar farm in the US.

Final thoughts

Are you ready to start a solar farm?

The renewable energy industry is rapidly expanding, and solar power will soon replace fossil fuel power.

Don’t wait to get in on this industry until the booms have already happened — start today!

Additional Resources

If you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. one-dollar-buy-landAnd before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. gokce-land-due-diligence-program-banner If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.

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I hope you enjoy reading this post. If you are interested in buying or selling land, check out:
Erika Gokce Capital
I hope you enjoy reading this post. Don't forget to check out my new book: Land Investing Mistakes -Erika

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

18 thoughts on “How to Start a Solar Farm? 13 Things (2022) You Should Know”

  1. How does solar contribute to water use?

    Reply
    • That’s a good question, and perhaps we should have gone into more detail in the article. Solar panels do use some water for washing, although this use is minimal. However, solar thermal power plants generally use water to power a turbine that then generates electricity, and so can consume a fair amount of water. You can read more information on this article: https://www.kcet.org/redefine/fact-check-how-much-water-does-solar-power-really-use

      Reply
  2. I do have the land but I’m wondering if it is suitable for building a plant or perhaps you do the evaluation or referral to one who does please

    Reply
    • Hello Wanga, thank you for reaching out. Unfortunately, we do not offer evaluations, but I would recommend reaching out to a local solar company.

      Reply
  3. I have access to around 50 acres( possibly more) of clear, level, wide open farm land. I’m interested in starting a solar farm. I live in the Alabama(Tennessee Valley Region). Can I do this? Will it be feasible in this region? Please reply

    Reply
    • Hello Barry, unfortunately, I cannot tell you definitively whether a solar farm is feasible on your land, but I would recommend giving a local solar developer or utility provider a call to get their opinion.

      Reply
  4. Hi Erika,

    This is one of the best blogs i have come across in regards to a solar project. So Thank you!
    Me and my partner are interested in owning a solar farm and are looking at options from model standpoint ( Community or utility) but more importantly the land acquisition phase is where we stand. We are looking for a Land for a solar project and seems like you can certainly help us with our requirement.
    While reading I came across your GLAD program which i personally am interested in as well not just from Solar project perspective but from general Land purchasing and real estate standpoint.
    Would you be able to reach out to me at my email below to discuss further about the Solar land viability as well as the GLAD program? or please let me know your preferred means of communication.
    Again, Thank you for the great information!

    Best,
    Amir
    [email protected]

    Reply
    • Hello Amir,

      Thank you for your comment! I just sent you an email.

      Reply
  5. hi Erica, this is a fantastic and resourceful website you have going. I am interested in starting a solar farm on a piece of land in Rio Vista California. I found out that the nearest power substation is at least 8miles away. In your opinion do you think this is feasible (in terms of cost) if we wanted to sell the power to a utility company such as PG&E in a way that makes business sense ? I was told you need to be about 2 miles away from a substation. Also, do you know how long it takes on average to be granted the requisite licenses when you are starting a solar farm ?. If you can tell us what kind of regulations and licenses we need to clear that will be very useful for us. Lastly, please feel free to send us a list of tracts of lands in California and neighboring states that you think will meet the criteria of being solar-farm friendly and close to power substations. I know these are too many questions – I am willing to have a conversation over the phone if you find that easier. thanks ~

    Reply
    • Hello Ernest, unfortunately, I am not actually an expert in solar farms, so I would recommend speaking with a local real estate agent to see if there are properties that will work for solar farms.

      Reply
  6. I and many of my neighbors would like to add residential solar panels for our own power. However we live in a forested area and solar is not an option for us. Has anyone looked at setting up a remote Solar farm that would add power to the grid say from the Mojave desert to power homes in Northern California. A cooperative solar farm where individuals could purchase an ownership interest that would equal there energy needs.

    Reply
    • Hello Michael, I do know that California has both solar farms in the desert and cooperatives (here’s one example: http://www.ccenergy.com/). Perhaps you could bring one to your area!

      Reply
  7. We own 14 acres of flat land which we would like to start a solar farm in Central Valley California. I’ve contacted a few solar companies but have not heard back from anyone yet. Is there someone you would recommend to help me get this process started? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Hello Patrick, unfortunately, I do not personally know of any solar companies in the area. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

      Reply
  8. Very good roundup of information, thank you.
    I’m looking to facilitate creation of a solar farm in our area.
    A cooperative of subscribers would be good and in SC there is a large electric cooperative that I believe could help coordinate this in some fashion.
    I’ve started preliminary dialogs and have made some connections but need to learn more. I have some ideas of where one could be built as land in certain areas of SC are affordable and have the electrical infrastructure needed.
    I have one idea in particular that I would like to run by you for feasibility.
    Thanks again, Gary

    Reply
    • Hello Gary, please feel free to contact me (gokcecapital.com/contact-us). I would just note that I am not actually an expert in solar farms, so I may be limited in the help I can provide.

      Reply
  9. Erica, I am interested to put a Solar Farm project in Bartow County Ga. USA. I am thinking to start with 10 Acre land Solar Farm. Georgia Power (Southern Company) is the power company in this area. Is Georgia power company Currently allowing Solar Plant in this County?
    If not, Can you give me an idea, which power company is allowing Solar farm in there territory?

    Reply
    • Hello Yogesh,

      Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question. I would recommend reaching out to Georgia Power directly.

      Best of luck!

      Reply

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