With growing concerns about climate change and global warming, policymakers, corporations, and consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the need to embrace clean and sustainable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.
This paradigm shift in the conversation around energy has contributed to the mushrooming of solar farms in many parts of the world. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of solar farms.
What Are Solar Farms?
Solar farms are large collections of solar panels that absorb the sun’s rays and convert them to energy.
There are two main types of solar farms: photovoltaic (PV) solar panel farms and solar thermal energy farms.
Photovoltaic solar panel farms typically use solar panels to absorb the rays of the sun and convert them into electricity. These solar panels are the most commonly used in solar farms.
Solar thermal energy farms, on the other hand, use special mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy, which is used to heat up a thermal exchange fluid.
The thermal fluid is then used to heat water at high temperatures to form steam which drives a thermodynamic turbine to generate energy.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Farms
Like non-renewable forms of energy, solar farms come with their own fair share of benefits as well as downsides.
1. They Are Environmentally-Friendly
One of the reasons why there are campaigns against fossil fuels in many parts of the world today is their negative impact on the environment.
Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants are responsible for releasing industrial amounts of pollutants including greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals which continue to have an adverse effect on the planet.
By contrast, solar farms have no emissions at all, which makes them sources of clean energy. That being said, solar farms do have a carbon footprint, which is attributed to the greenhouse gases that are released during the manufacturing of solar panels.
However, this emission is negligible compared to what is emitted by nuclear and fossil fuel power plants.
2. They Are Sustainable
As already highlighted, solar farms generate energy from the sun which as we all know is a reliable source of energy not only today but well into the foreseeable future.
For this reason, solar farms provide a sustainable source of energy that can be tapped and used indefinitely as long as we still have the sun in our skies.
3. They Are Cheap To Maintain
One advantage that solar farms have over other types of power plants is that their cost of maintenance is very low.
Once installed, the solar modules require very minimal maintenance or upkeep beyond some cleaning a few times a year to ensure optimal production.
They also don’t require other resources to operate properly and can stay operational for up to 25 years.
4. They Are Quiet
Pretty much every process related to the extraction of fossil fuels produces a lot of noise. For instance, the process of drilling for oil causes a lot of noise pollution which can be a nuisance to the population living in these areas.
Likewise, the pumps and generators used in most hydroelectric power plants can be very loud when operational.
By contrast, solar farms are considerably quiet even when operating, and the sound they produce is at worst, a hum that can only be heard in the quietest environments.
This makes solar farms very friendly to the residents living around the sites where they’ve been installed.
Cons of Solar Farms
1. They Are Expensive To Set Up
While solar farms are a reliable source of clean energy, the cost of setting them up is beyond the reach of many people and communities, particularly in the developing world.
The high cost of setting up solar farms is partly due to the fact that solar modules are expensive and also because the installation process is very labor-intensive.
2. Their Output is Intermittent
Since solar farms are dependent on the sun, their output can be affected by the presence or absence of this resource.
For instance, during the night, there is no sunlight to draw from, which means solar farms can’t produce energy.
Likewise, seasonal changes such as the onset of winter can reduce the amount of available sunlight, thus reducing the energy output of solar farms.
3. The Cost of Energy Storage Is High
Solar farms typically generate electricity during the daytime when the sun is out. This necessitates the storage of energy during the night when the solar panels are not operational.
While batteries are a convenient medium for solar energy storage, they can be expensive and bulky, which makes them infeasible to use on solar farms.
4. They Take Up A Lot of Space
Like other renewable energy installations like wind turbines, solar farms are generally intensive when it comes to their spatial requirements.
For instance, setting up a solar farm that can generate one megawatt of electricity requires about 3 acres of land.
This makes them mostly limited to rural areas where there are huge tracts of land to accommodate such installations.
As we continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change and global warming, solar energy appears to be one of the best solutions to our energy needs at present.
By harnessing the sun for our energy needs through solar farms, we can ease our overreliance on fossil fuels and relieve our planet of greenhouse gas emissions.