Tag Archives: Efficiency

Solar Farm Site Selection

I was putting this list together for a presentation that I’m giving next week, and I thought I would post it here too.  These factors are true for any technology, but they’re part of the reason I like our technology – high efficiency modules on sun trackers really make many of these issues more manageable.

Solar Farm

Solar Farm

Don’t take this all to mean that there aren’t any sites out there for solar farm development – there are thousands of sites available – these considerations really just emphasize the fact that even if you’re out in the desert, it’s a mistake to treat land as essentially free.  This just stresses the need for efficient use of land for solar farms.

Below are some of the issues that a solar farm developer needs to consider when selecting a site.

Quality of terrain
Sloped land, excessively rocky or sandy terrain, uneven land etc can all significantly add to the cost of installing a solar farm.

Local weathering factors
Desert conditions often coincide with excessive dust fall, flooding and flash flooding, high erosion etc, and these can limit the viability of a site and in many cases can make a site non-viable.

Proximity to High Transmission Capacity Lines
One of the biggest hidden costs of a solar farm is the distance required to connect a system to high voltage lines capable of carrying the excess production.  The costs of even a few extra kilometres can completely destroy the profitability of a solar farm.

Local Transmission Capacity
Worse, in many places, power grids are not able to handle the excess capacity that a solar farm would introduce.  This has been a persistent problem in California, Spain, Ontario and the Middle East, and has led to hundreds of projects being cancelled or delayed indefinitely.

Conservation and Environmental Impact Issues
Large tracts of undeveloped land too often coincide with sensitive or protected areas or protected species.  Often the presence of a single protected species of plant or animal can halt or completely alter the development plans for a solar farm, and for example in California, the evidence of single endangered burrowing owl halted the development of a solar farm project worth hundreds of millions.  Thin films are especially bad as they really require the land to be completely covered to get a useful watts/acre ratio.

Agricultural Concerns
Most government agencies responsible for agriculture do not want to see farmers paving over their fields with solar panels.  Especially in Canada and Southern Europe, available land near electrical demand centres is usually agricultural land – this will turn into a bigger and bigger issue as time goes on.

Local Regulations and Ownership
It is surprising the number of issues that can arise, even in a friendly regulatory framework.  Objections from the military over concerns with reflections interfering with pilot’s vision or ground construction causing problems with radar installations, construction permits and agricultural land limits on depth of holes allowed on a site are examples of regulations that can effect a site.  This has been a consistent issue with site selection for solar farms everywhere.  Further, although this depends on local factors, land ownership of the solar farm land itself, or the right of way required for construction access and/or connection to high voltage transmission can severely complicate factors, especially when previously “worthless” land is suddenly perceived as valuable.

Land Prices Rise Quickly
Generally, solar farm developments tend to happen regionally, where several projects appear in quick succession.  The surprising limits to viable sites discussed above, combined with the high costs of developing solar farms tends to lead to higher land prices, higher property taxes and in worst cases, land speculation.

Smaller Solar Farms Save other Costs
Panel and land costs are not the only costs to consider – installation costs, cabling and O&M are all less costly in smaller solar farms.  As the scale gets bigger, this becomes more significant.

That’s a sample, trust me – talk to a solar farm developer and they’ll laugh at how oversimplified this list is.  That said, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of solar farms in the works all over the world.  Efficiency matters.  That’s all I’m saying.


Wasted Energy

Posted by: Nicole Telidis



It’s ironic that the greatest wasters of electricity are the plants producing it. It’s also neglectful, contemptible and unnecessary. Power plants are only 33% efficient: 2/3 of the energy they produce from burning fuel is wasted to tail gas and heat.

Ever seen those massive chimney stacks which seem to be manufacturing dirty clouds? Those “clouds”, technically known as tail gas, are the non-recyclable leftovers from chemical processes. Heat, another byproduct of fuel processing, is a form of energy which dissipates quickly and must be harnessed close to the source.

Some weeks ago, I learned about the company called Recycled Energy Development (or RED for short) on the Virtual Energy Forum. RED designs technologies which capture and recycle waste heat and emissions from power plants, boosting efficiencies. They’ve implemented their technology all over the States and even in Canada (PEI and London) to improve power plant efficiencies, which Sean Casten, CEO of RED, claims haven’t improved in the U.S. since 1957 because of lax governmental policy. Efficient plants mean less carbon dioxide production and lower plant operating costs.

As said by the late architect Buckminster Fuller: “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” (source)

In other words, nothing is “just” waste. In these energy-stringent years, waste is a luxury we can’t afford. Instead, we need to look through the smoke and recognize the true value of our resources at hand. Whether our source is the sun, the wind, garbage, tail gas, or our own human fat (not recommended), the right technologies and cooperation will let us capture energy from every source available.