Solar farms, also known as solar power stations that operate just like power plants, are a vast decentralised array of ground-mounted solar panels that mostly provides electricity to the utility grid.
Types of Solar Farms
Solar farms can be further classified into community solar farms or utility-scale solar farms. Community solar farms produce electricity to be shared by many households, while utility-scale solar farms produce solar power and feed it to the utility grid.
Typical Size of a Solar Farm
A smaller community solar farm can cover only a few acres in size and can be as small as 10 kilowatts up to a few megawatts in size. They are commonly called “solar gardens” because of their smaller size. Utility-scale solar farms can range from 5 MWs – 1000MWs.
As to the land size or space needed for solar farms, a kilowatt of solar power requires approximately 100 square feet of land. So for large solar power plants which need space not just for solar panels but for other pieces of equipment and enough space per rows, it might need more massive land acres.
By far, the largest solar farm worldwide is the Pavagada Solar Park in India, which has a capacity 2050 MW. It covers an area of 53 square kilometres and is divided into eight blocks of 250 MW each.
Advantages of Solar Farms
- If you subscribe to solar farms owned by utilities, you can purchase electricity at a lower cost.
- Renters and low-income neighbourhoods can still use solar energy through subscribing to solar farms at a reasonable cost.
- You can get monetary credits or reduced utility bills for excess electricity fed to the grid.
- The solar farm owner or developer will manage maintenance.
- It eliminates problems on shading and other roof-related issues.
- Location can be chosen to maximise the sun’s energy.
Solar Farms in Australia
Being one of the sunniest places in the world, Australia is maximising this opportunity to build many large-scale solar power plants.
The first-ever utility-scale solar farm installed in Australia is the Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia. It covers 80 hectares of land and has a capacity of 10MW, which started its operation in 2012.
Installation of solar farms in Australia grew four times in 2018 compared to the previous years, adding 1442 MW in capacity from the 38 newly installed farms. It was also the year that the six largest solar farms were completed. These are the 150 MW Coleambally Solar Farm, the 138 MW Darling Downs Solar Farm, the 128 MW Clare Solar Farm, the 125 MW Sun Metals Solar Farm, the 110 MW Wemen Solar Farm, and the 110 MW Bannerton Solar Farm.
The total power generated is around 1875 GWh of electricity, which accounted for .8% of the total electricity generated in the country.
Also, at the start of 2019, 87 large-scale solar farms, with 40 new farms over 50MW, were under construction or financially committed.
As solar continues to boom as an industry in Australia, significant growth of solar farms is seen to take place in the coming years.
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