What Are Solar Farms?

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Green energy is a hot topic at the moment. The ability to generate electricity, with zero emissions, is part of the UK’s commitment towards net zero emissions by 2050. According to a National Grid ESO report in 2021:

“Great Britain’s electricity system is on track to be powered free of fossil fuels and at 100% zero carbon in just four years’ time.

In 2019 zero carbon sources outstripped fossil fuelled electricity generation for the first time ever and on the 17th August saw the highest share of zero carbon power ever seen at 85.1% (wind 39%, solar 25%, nuclear 20% and hydro 1%).”

Even in the UK, where blue skies and bright sunny days are not always available, solar power is already providing over a quarter of the UK’s renewable energy!

What is a Solar Farm?

Solar farms are simply a very large number of ground-mounted solar panels, as opposed to roof-mounted panels that you might see on a house or building. Rows and rows of photovoltaic (PV) panels are oriented to the south and angled at the sun. Also known as solar plants or solar power stations, they are designed to optimise the ability of PV technology to generate electricity.

Solar panel farm

Are solar farms a good idea?

Solar energy is arguably the greenest form of power available. Along with wind turbines, solar helps use the elements of nature to produce emission free power. As technologies and manufacturing techniques improve, the relatively high cost of extracting raw materials such as silver, and converting sand into high-grade silicon, is reducing. A PV panel has a lifetime of around 30 years, meaning the initial costs, both financial and environmental, are much smaller over the lifetime of the farm. Solar farms are an excellent solution to help provide affordable and green energy.

What are the downsides of solar farming?

The main downsides of solar farming are the initial set up costs and the space required for the PV panels. The upfront cost is simply a matter of financing a new farm, over the lifetime of electricity generation. Finding suitable land can be more of a problem in a relatively small country like the UK. One solution is to use fields that are less productive for agriculture. Smaller or irregular shaped fields, or areas with poorer soil, can make excellent sites for solar farms. Installers of solar farms often use ABC Anchors’ helical screw piles, such as the ABC 60R, in hard or soft clay areas.

How big does a UK solar farm need to be?

The largest planned UK solar farm was recently approved for construction in Kent. Spread over 900 acres of the north Kent coast, the farm will supply power to 91,000 homes. The good news is solar farms do not have to be that large! Around 25 acres of land (about 0.1 Km2) can generate 5 megawatts (MW), enough to power approximately 1,500 homes.

The UK is a surprisingly good place to site solar farms too. Despite the reputation for poor summers, the UK still gets around 60% of the solar energy found at the equator. Some areas of England get as much sunlight as regions of France, Germany and even Spain! More good news (for solar energy production) is that the lower air temperatures help cool the panels, making them more efficient.

How do you mount the solar panels securely to the ground?

The PV panels in a solar farm are usually mounted on high strength aluminium frames, which provide good resistance to corrosion and oxidation. Given the size and angle of the panels, and the strength of winds in the UK, it is vital that the frames are securely fixed into the soil. Ground anchors are used, matched to the soil type, to ensure the panels and frame resist the worst that the UK weather can produce. Bowler Energy, a nationwide installer of wind and solar energy systems, use a variety of ABC Anchors’ products to match the soil on-site.

Solar farms are here to stay, and their popularity is increasing. If you are considering installing a solar farm, why not contact ABC Anchors and see how we can help.