Articles

Agricultural Solar Panels - The Nine Most Common FAQs

by Max Ruby I write as I see it

The medium-long term financial benefits of agricultural solar are very clear. Easy to maintain, long life and high-efficiency panels will more than pay for themselves, especially when purchases incorporate existing federal and state tax incentives. Yet there are plenty of perfectly reasonable questions that farmers pose when it comes to using solar energy. These cover everything from the composition of the panels themselves through to any potential effect that it may have on land quality and crop production. Here we'll take a look at the most common questions we have been asked by the farm industry concerning solar power installations and how it can help their businesses flourish.

1) Do Solar Modules Contaminate The Ground?

The majority of solar panels used in agriculture use either silicone or cadmium compounds - and it is accurate to say that neither of these is desirable in your earth! At present these are both essential for commercial solar panels and while alternatives are in development they are unlikely to come to market anytime soon. 

The good news is that neither of these elements is going to cause any problems. Plenty of studies have been conducted into whether silicone leaks into the earth and not one has presented any evidence for their doing so. Cadmium will not be released even if the panels are exposed to grassland fires. Incinerator levels of heat are required to release that toxicity.

So no - solar panels are not going to contaminate your soil in any way whatsoever.

2) Do Solar Panels Dry Out The Ground Or Encourage Pests?

Not in the slightest - in fact, they are actually good for promoting healthy crop growth. The shade provided by ground-level solar panels actually helps keep crops cool during the daytime, while providing an additional layer of insulation at night. If anything the shade helps to make shade-resistant healthier plants extends growing seasons and provides additional natural moisture.

Thanks to the more ambient and consistent temperature pests are actually less likely to thrive. To date, there has not been a single study suggesting that solar panels enhance infestations.

The presence of solar panels actually improves the health of your plants and maintains the quality of the soil.

3) How Do Solar Panels Affect Other Wildlife?

Solar panels intended for agricultural use are generally sturdy but they do require some degree of protection from larger wildlife. The good news is that existing measures to protect crops - such as adequate fencing and keeping any cattle separate from them - are plenty enough precautions. Sheep may actually be useful around solar panels as they help control vegetation levels that may impede solar exposure.

As for birdlife, it was presumed for a while that they could mistake solar panels for water. Studies have found that panels actually produce less reflection than glass, so the risk is no greater than if they were to fly into a window. So consider this a very rare problem indeed.

4) Can Solar Help With Irrigation?

Absolutely. Solar-powered irrigation requires no connection to the grid. Many kits will incorporate batteries to allow them to store excess energy for use during low sunlight phases. They can also be set with timers. 

Solar panels are already used for this exact reason in many other countries and we expect this to become the norm here very soon.

5) My Land Needs Burning Every Year Or Is Susceptible To Floods - Is Solar Still Viable?

If you need to burn field on a frequent basis then you will need to install solar systems on fallow land. Fire is obviously going to damage panels and wiring! Remember that most panels can be easily moved - but this will require a degree of technical skill and your cables will need to be much deeper than usual. 

As for flood-prone fields, solar panels can be mounted but again there is the issue of cabling. Remember that your insurance may be affected should you opt to install solar panels on such susceptible ground.

6) How Significant Is Soil & Dust?

This will vary slightly depending on your specific location. The vast majority of users will enjoy the fact that solar agricultural systems require next to no maintenance and are inherently self-sufficient. When it comes to general upkeep a simple wash three/four times a year should be enough to ensure that hard sticking dirt is removed. Note that vegetation actually helps reduce dust levels on your panels.

Much is made of the extent to which dust covering will affect energy production but the reality is that with regular care it should account for no more than a 2% loss.

7) Should I Use Previously Tilled Land For Solar Panels?

Absolutely and there are a number of reasons for doing so. In regards to efficiency, the underlying vegetation will help keep the surface area cool. Peculiar as it sounds to some, solar panels work best when they are not subjected to excessive heat. In legal terms, this land will have a previously designated use and will not fall foul to issues during environmental reviews. The land should also be flat and well proportioned - both are ideal for placing solar panels. 

8) Are Raised Solar Panels More Cost-Effective? 

In the long term - maybe. Plenty of farmers raise concerns that panels are going to take up space that otherwise could be used for more crops. Raised platforms are going to be more expensive to install and may reduce the positives outlined above (better ambient temperature and crop diversification). Should you choose to use raised platforms, make sure they are high-quality metal and designed for decades worth of use.

9) Are Agrichemicals A Risk To My Panels?

Fertilizers and pest control agents should not affect the actual equipment but may compromise efficiency if they become coated/saturated. Try to avoid spraying over the panels wherever possible. If this is unavoidable a quick spray down with water will clear any residue. Outdoor solar panels are designed to be tough and ought to last for 25 years+ so do not worry about actually damaging them through spraying. 

These nine questions amount to the most common issues raised by farmers looking to make the most of their solar panel system. Be sure to consult with installation experts who will talk you through the various options available. Any efficient agricultural solar solution ought to be tailored to make the best use of your land. No installation is going to be exactly the same as any other, and remember that smaller companies will offer not only better service but are frequently thousands of dollars cheaper than the larger solar energy operators. 



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About Max Ruby Freshman   I write as I see it

7 connections, 0 recommendations, 29 honor points.
Joined APSense since, August 28th, 2019, From New York City, United States.

Created on Sep 4th 2019 10:28. Viewed 341 times.

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