Farmers and landowners are becoming more interested in solar energy on a national scale.
In fact, solar is being hailed as the future “cash crop” since it gives far larger returns than traditional crops like corn and soybeans.
Consequently, if you own a large parcel of land, should you consider installing solar panels? If so, what measures should be taken to begin one?
We will describe what a solar farm is, how much it costs, and how to start one. 1 acre of solar panels produces around 351 MWh of power annually on average.
Profit varies depending on the irradiance of the nation and state/location, but the average profit is around $14,000.
The cost of installing solar panels on one acre is around $450,000.
What Is A Solar Farm?
Wide-scale, grounded solar arrays constitute solar farms.
To harness the sun’s energy, they use PV (photovoltaic) panels and other techniques of collecting and storing solar energy, such as concentrating solar systems.
Solar farms are also known as solar parks, solar power plants, and solar plants.
They serve as power plants, identical to the fossil-fueled power plants that have delivered electricity to consumers for the last century.
They differ significantly from rooftop solar systems and commercial solar power systems.
By ordering solar panels and other equipment in large quantities, project developers may get the equipment at a reduced cost.
Additionally, solar power facilities may be positioned in a more ideal location, free of obstructions such as tree shadows.
Typically, decentralized solar farms consist of solar panels fixed to the ground and dispersed over vast territories.
In the majority of cases, solar farms contribute to the energy portfolio of the utility by delivering power to the grid.
There are several types of large solar projects, such as community solar farms and utility-scale solar farms.
Utility VS Community Solar Farms
Utility-scale solar farms are often much larger than community solar farms.
The capacity of utility-scale solar farms may range from 1 MW to 2 GW.
In contrast, community solar farms are typically less than 5 MW, and it is uncommon for them to be smaller than 100 kW.
Customers served is another important contrast between the two types of solar farms.
Community solar farm projects give power to subscribers or members who have purchased a piece of the farm’s energy.
In contrast, utility solar farms provide the utility company and all of its customers with electricity as part of the energy mix transported by its power lines.
Things To Consider When Starting A Solar Farm
Here are the most often asked questions by property owners interested in installing a solar farm:
GTM Research reports that a 1 MW solar farm needs six to eight acres for the equipment and space between the panel rows.
Consider the fact that large solar projects need more than just space for solar panels.
Additionally, the land is required to house auxiliary equipment, like inverters, and there must be enough space between solar panel rows for repair and maintenance.
The construction of a solar farm might be completed within a couple of months, depending on the size of the solar project and the number of workers.
However, siting and permission are far more challenging. It might take between three and five years to get the necessary authorizations and contracts for a solar farm.
Once a solar farm is constructed and running, it needs little maintenance and may require three to four repairs per year.
Selling the power generated by a 1 MW solar farm might generate roughly $40,000 annually. Here is a description of how solar farms generate income.
In order to sell their products on the wholesale energy market, utility-scale solar farms negotiate Purchase-Power Agreements.
Using energy exchanges makes this possible. LevelTen Energy’s P25 national index suggests that solar power sold for $29.75 per MWh in the fourth quarter of 2021.
The index demonstrates that the 25th percentile of PPAs traded for less than this amount, whilst the 75th percentile traded for more, and is hence a rather cautious value.
Using the national average of four peak sun hours per day, a 1 MW solar farm would produce 1,460 MWh annually.
Thus, a 1 MW solar farm may anticipate yearly earnings of around $43,500. Clearly, these are only average numbers.
Your actual earnings may vary greatly depending on variables such as your location’s solar energy output and the wholesale market price for solar energy generating.
In addition, keep in mind that the wholesale power prices in your Regional Transmission Organization region have a substantial influence on PPA values.
How Much Land Is Needed For A Solar Farm?
Large solar systems must meet specific requirements in order to operate. According to GTM Research, a 1 MW solar farm will need 6 to 8 acres of land.
This creates room for the required equipment between each panel row.
Large solar projects require space for both the solar panels and the supporting equipment, such as inverters.
The rows of solar panels need space for repair and maintenance access, and the space is supplied so that solar panels in close proximity do not produce shadows.
The location must be devoid of any obstructions that might create shadows on the solar panels.
The ideal property receives direct sunlight and has no nearby trees or major constructions, etc.
Licensing And Permissions
According to FundsNet, obtaining permissions, contracts, siting, and licenses for a solar farm may take between three and five years.
Numerous farmers and landowners are unaware of this, thus it is essential to prepare in advance for this lengthy procedure.
Currently, the vast majority of solar power plants are built on privately owned property; therefore, federal, state, and municipal authorities conduct stringent evaluations of the solar power plant process.
These methods minimize the land and ecosystem impacts on the environment.
After approval, the actual building and installation of a solar farm take just a few months.
Once a solar farm is operational, just a few service trips are required annually for maintenance.
The deterioration rate of solar panels is rather slow, and the great majority will survive between 25 and 30 years.
You will be pleased to learn that the lifetime maintenance of your solar farm is pretty inexpensive.
How Many Solar Panels Fit In One Acre?
On one acre, there is enough for about 740kW of solar panel surface, however since the panels are placed in rows with maintenance paths, the form factor is 0.58.
On average, 100 square feet can support one kilowatt of solar energy. An acre has 43,560 square feet, thus the solar energy potential may be estimated by:
- 43560/100x1kw= 435.6kW
Installing solar farms in locations, such as Nevada, with a high value of irradiance. Nevada’s peak total sun hours figure is 2348.
The amount of solar energy theoretically created by one acre per year is equal to:
- 43560/2348kWh/m2 = 1022mWh
We get the following by utilizing a form factor in order to accommodate array spacing:
- 592.76 mWh worth of solar energy equals 1022mW multiplied by 0.58.
How Do Solar Farms Raise Money?
Solar panels may help a landowner in two ways:
- A solar business will design, install, operate, and manage the system, as well as negotiate any utility contracts. Consequently, the owner makes an annual profit in accordance with the contract terms.
- Self-purchase and installation of solar panels by the landowner are possible. Initial investment costs are somewhat higher, but returns are higher.
How Much Money Would 1 Acre Of Solar Panels Make Each Year?
According to my earlier calculations, one acre of land in Nevada would generate around 351,3 mWh of energy annually.
How many dollars is this quantity of power worth? Compared to a residential solar system, this represents an enormous quantity of wasted energy.
Solar farm production is exchanged in specialized markets on a per-MWh basis, resulting in fluctuating profits.
The average price per megawatt-hour is around $27, therefore 531mWh produced by a 1-acre solar farm would be valued at $14,337.
How Much Money Could Landowners Be Paid For Solar Farms?
The simplest option for a landowner is to lease the property to the solar farm operator.
The quantity produced per acre varies considerably due to a number of factors:
- Does the state have any government or nongovernment incentives?
- Regional land value levels
- How close is the nearest grid connection?
- Does a solar energy industry exist in your state?
A landowner may expect to earn around $2,300 per acre when leasing to solar farm operators.
Depending on estimates of solar energy production at that location, solar farm revenues are comparable to those of other farm-based businesses.
What Is The Cost Of A 1 Acre Size Solar Farm?
Solar farm installation costs per kilowatt are far cheaper than residential solar system installation prices, which average $2.80 per kilowatt in the majority of states.
Solar farm expenses vary between $0.90 and $1.20 per kilowatt.
Let’s assume that the amount of solar energy to be installed on 1 acre is 435kW at an average cost of $1.1/kW.
- 435kW × $1.1/kW = $478,500
Government and state incentives in the form of grants and loans may significantly reduce these capital expenditures.
Without such incentives, the majority of farmers and landowners would find the cost of a solar farm exorbitant.
The income for a solar farm per acre for a 435kW solar panel installation is between $14,000 and $16,000 per year.
The actual revenue is contingent on the site’s irradiance.
As the majority of farms are measured in megawatts (mW), solar farms profit between $32,000 and $40,000 for each megawatt added.
Solar farm profit margins range between 10 and 20 percent.
If you are operating your own company, any parcel of land greater than one acre will suffice; nonetheless, it is vital to have a professional estimate of installation costs vs return on investment; there are advantages to large-scale plants.
Profitability requires a surface area greater than 10 acres for a professional endeavor.
Depending on their location, solar farms earn between $1200 and $1300 per acre per month, therefore a 2-acre solar farm should generate $2500 per month.
Are Solar Farms Profitable?
During the last decade, more land has been allocated to make solar farms, which suggests that solar farms are lucrative.
From the standpoint of reducing reliance on nonrenewable resources such as oil and gas, it is very beneficial.
Several variables contribute to the occurrence of this phenomenon:
- Depending on the output of farmland, yearly profits on solar farms grow.
- After the installation of solar panels, the property is easier to maintain and needs less work.
- Energy is in high demand, and new sources are urgently sought.
- Government loans and incentives enhance the appeal of property ownership for landowners.
- Leasing land to solar companies is a straightforward method for generating cash from underutilized land.
Solar farms are substantial investments, and investments are evaluated based on their rate of return (Return on Investment).
It is difficult to generalize because of changes in state conditions, but the ROI for a solar farm is normally between 13 and 15 percent, and the payback time is between 8 and 12 years.
Farm leasing rates range from $500 and $2,300 per acre each year, depending on the region.
The states with the most expensive leasing rates are California, Texas, and Nevada.
If the property in Nevada is leased for $2,300 per acre for a solar farm, a 10-acre parcel will generate $23,000 in annual profit.
Could I Start A Solar Panel Farm?
Any individual in good standing may create a solar farm.
First, land solar farms are founded as companies, thus regular firm startup costs, including licensing, permits, and insurance, are applicable.
A solar farm is a technologically complicated endeavor that is normally carried out by an established solar company.
The construction of a small to medium-sized solar farm may be finished within six months, but collecting the requisite operating permits and licenses could take longer.
It is ideal to submit an application 18 months prior to the planned start date.
Contact a qualified solar installer who can expedite the permit application process, handle all aspects of a new solar farm, and provide guidance on local incentives and funding.
Community solar farms are an excellent way to divide expenses, and earnings would also be dispersed across the community.
According to industry statistics, the yearly cost per kW ranges from $15 to $25. At an average of $20/kW, it would cost $1,000,000 to operate a 5 MW solar farm.
Solar systems are scalable, and the initial cost of capital tends to reduce as farm size grows. In general, the minimum size of a solar installation should be 1 mW.
Depending on the installation, around four acres of land are required for one kilowatt of solar panels.
Solar projects will continue to be a vital part of the global sustainable energy solution of the future, which will eliminate reliance on fossil fuels.
Large-scale solar projects, such as Utility Solar Farms, will continue to be in great demand and fall in price as solar farm developers find new ways to reduce implementation costs.
In the future, we can expect to see a rise in solar farms of all sizes, making now a great time to become involved if you have the land and means to do so.
Unless the property is leased, the initial costs of establishing a solar farm are not low.
A 1 MW solar farm may cost between $820,000 and $1.36 million, which includes the purchase and installation of solar equipment as well as the expenses involved with siting and acquiring the appropriate permissions.
Future community solar projects, utility-scale solar projects, and rooftop solar installations will all contribute to the renewable energy solution that eliminates fossil fuels and delivers clean power throughout the United States.
The price of large-scale solar energy will continue to decline as solar farm developers find new ways to reduce financing and equipment costs. In the near future, solar farms will be much bigger and more numerous.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does It Cost To Build A 1 Acre Solar Farm?
Solar developers must consider a multitude of variables when estimating the price of a 1-acre solar farm.
In any growth plan, environmental and engineering factors must be taken into account.
There are also economies of scale, which indicate that the demands and expenditures per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated would decrease for a larger farm with several acres, affecting the profit made.
As a general rule, one acre of solar cells on a larger farm should cost between $350,000 and $500,000 (subsidies removed), however, it should be remembered that the cost of solar components is reducing continuously.
How Profitable Is A Solar Farm?
Solar farms may be very lucrative throughout a broad range, from $200,000 and $60,000 per acre. It depends on a thorough evaluation of each individual trait.
Flat, shade-free land and a high irradiance value in the region are the most important site conditions for any developer wanting to construct a solar energy facility.
As a result of economies of scale throughout the purchase and development stages, larger farms generate more revenue.
The initial investment may be in the tens of millions of dollars, but a larger acreage yields increasingly greater earnings.
Is A Solar Farm A Good Investment?
There is a definite economy for solar farms, which means that the costs fall as the number of acres and solar panels grow.
ROI (Return on Investment) is heavily reliant on geography, which is why the bulk of solar farms are situated in regions with increased irradiance (peak-sun hours) and low cloud cover.
Clouds limit solar output and profitability greatly.
How Much Do Solar Farm Leases Pay?
According to prominent websites for solar land leasing, landowners who lease their property for solar farms may earn between $250 and $3,000 per acre per year.
This option is offered to those who would prefer to lease their property to an external solar developer than building their own solar farm.
You may be wondering why rental fees vary so much.
This is owing to the fact that, depending on your region, a number of factors might affect the rental market prices for land.
- Values of land in your location close to power transmission infrastructure.
- Replace existing land uses (i.e. possible agricultural farm income).
- Demand statewide for renewable energy.
- Municipal and governmental incentives for operators of solar power plants.
In conclusion, the amount you may earn by leasing your land to a solar farm is extremely contingent on the local market conditions.
The usual duration of a contract is from 15 to 20 years, with extension options up to 50 years.
In addition, they give annual raises between 1.5 and 2.5% to account for inflation.
Some developers even offer to buy the leases for a large up-front sum.