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Jun 10, 2020

How Green Are Solar Farms?

As the world continues to pursue greener energy alternatives, solar energy, and specifically solar farms, still remain one of the most effective ways to increase sustainable energy generation. Even with its long list of benefits, there’s still a surprising amount of skepticism and concern around how “green” solar farms really are. At Nexamp, we’re solar experts and we’re invested in ensuring that solar is a sustainable solution to climate change. Here’s why we think solar farms are a critical piece of the cleaner energy future.

Are solar panels toxic?

While the actual manufacturing process of a solar panel does require the use of greenhouse gasses, a solar panel will not emit any pollution during its lifetime. And the technology for manufacturing solar technology continues to advance rapidly as manufacturing becomes more efficient. A 2016 study by Nature Communications found that the overall emissions from manufacturing process decreased by 17% to 24% every time solar panel installations doubled in the last 40 years.

Why use open land when we have rooftops?

Paving the path towards a 100% carbon free world entails more space than one might think. But land area required for renewable energy projects, specifically solar, is minor. In fact, to power all of America on solar, it would require about 1% of land area dedicated to solar farms. To put that in context, America currently contributes about 1% of its land to roads and 0.5% to rooftops. 1% of land for solar is necessary and achievable as a way to get to 100% decarbonized energy.

Does solar development take away land from farmers?

Landowners are recognizing the immense opportunity that solar leasing provides to their business without significantly restricting their agricultural capacity. Solar farming represents an opportunity for low-impact use that has a positive effect on the environment during the life of the solar project.

Management of the land is a top priority when developing our solar farms. When identifying locations, we look for sites where it’s possible to interconnect to the local utility grid, while having a minimal impact on the natural state of the land.

At Nexamp, we own and operate our solar farms and manage the process from start to finish. At the end of our project’s life cycle, if the landowner wishes, the solar farm is decommissioned, and the land can be returned to its natural state.

What happens at the end of solar farm’s lifecycle?

A rapid increase in the production of solar farms has caused many individuals and organizations to think about what happens after solar panels can no longer generate clean energy. Many of the first operational solar farms are still in use, even after thirty years! Currently, 90% of materials used for solar panels can be recycled. According to a recent study by the International Renewable Agency (IRENA), an estimated $15 billion could be recovered from recycling solar materials by 2050.

SEIA and Recycle PV are paving the way for panel recycling to be a beneficial and successful business for the solar industry in the coming years. Although most of Nexamp’s solar farms are still considered to be relatively new, it’s important that we lay down the groundwork to ensure a recycling plan once our solar farms have been decommissioned.

How can solar grazing extend the benefits of a solar farm?

Solar grazing takes solar farms to the next level by extending the benefits of dual-use land. By adding sheep to a solar farm, mowing and the use of herbicides that are traditionally used to keep weeds at bay are no longer needed. Sheep grazing can progressively improve the land by fostering a lower cost source of clean energy maintenance.

At Nexamp, it's our job to educate our customers and potential customers on how we practice good stewardship of the land. We believe in doing right by our communities and right by the environment. We’re always open to suggestions from the public on ways to improve environmental stewardship that will provide the greatest benefit to ensure a sustainable environment.

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