When discussing a solar farm project it is important to understand the difference between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) voltage. Solar panel nameplate voltage is designated as direct current (DC). Utility line voltage is designated as alternating current (AC). In rare cases utility line voltage can be designated as direct current.
Since solar panels are designated in direct current, and utility programs are in alternating current (AC), it is important to understand how to translate direct current into alternating current (AC). The general rule of thumb is to multiply the total direct current (DC) watts by 85% to arrive at alternating current (AC) level.
In California there are several programs that solar farms can participate in. After much study, Commercial Solar Design has determined that the two most profitable solar farm sizes are 3 megawatt and 20 megawatt. California legislation provides solar farm projects up to 3MW alternating current (AC) with a guaranteed interconnection as well as a must-buy for investor-owned utilities. Another program; a RAM (reverse auction mechanism) allows for solar farms of up to 20 megawatts AC.
When considering a solar farm one must decide on whether to use a fixed ground mount or single axis tracker system. Commercial solar design supports single axis tracker designs because the increased cost of single-axis tracker is offset by the additional revenue generated. The solar farm investment community is interested in maximizing project ROI which single axis trackers deliver.
One must also consider land use with regard to solar farms. A one megawatt block alternating current (AC) using single axis trackers on flat land in Central California will be approximately 805 feet long by 392 feet wide. If you include multiple MW blocks, spacing, maintenance roads, setbacks and other considerations, 1MW alternating current (AC) occupies approximately seven acres.
When considering a solar farm investment one should focus on land and size to accommodate either a 3MW or 20MW alternating current (AC) solar farm project. That translates to either a 21 acre or 140 acre parcel.
The next consideration regards CUP (conditional use permitting). Most locations are not suitable for solar farm projects due to many factors including; Williamson Act, community objections, lack of a provision for solar farms in the general plan, land is covered with trees and permit will not be issued for clear cutting, land is within a 100 year floodplain, insufficient capacity on existing power lines, too remote to access the existing power lines, an area already saturated with solar power, not located in an IOU territory, and many other reasons. Commercial Solar Design specializes in solar farm projects and can help you determine if your solar farm project is viable.
If you think you have a parcel well suited to solar farming, now is the perfect time to get started on planning your project. However solar farms are not cheap. A good solar farm investment can return 15% or more. There is a Federal grant to cover 30% of the project’s total cost. The balance is split between 35 percent equity position and 35% financing. Commercial Solar Design has created a very interesting program for landowners who were not in a position to provide 35% equity. Opportunities abound but you have to move quickly to take advantage before other people fill the capacity allotted to solar farm projects.