With a proven track record of financial benefits and increasingly efficient energy generation, solar is a rapidly growing industry within the renewable energy space. Much of the industry’s success to date can be attributed to the surge in rooftop solar installations and the lesser-known growth of solar farm development across the country. These large-scale solar installations, often known as solar farms, span acres of land and generate energy for hundreds of homes and businesses. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about solar farms: what they are, how they produce energy, their benefits, and more.

What is A Solar Farm?

Let’s begin by looking at what a solar farm is. A solar energy farm, also known as a solar garden, solar power plant, or solar panel field, is a large-scale solar system connected to the utility grid. Solar farms represent one of the most efficient ways to generate clean energy: they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to implement, and produce no emissions during energy production.

What Are the Different Types of Solar Farms?

There are several types of solar farms being developed across the country. Let’s explore three especially common ones: utility-scale, distributed generation, and microgrids.

Utility-Scale Solar Farms:

Utility-scale solar farms scale up to 1 GW, typically spanning multiple acres of land. According to the Solar Industries Association (SEIA), there are now over 37,000 MW of utility-scale solar projects operating, with another 112,000 MW under development. What distinguishes utility-scale solar projects from other distributed solar options is the size of the project and the power it produces. The energy from these projects is sold to utility buyers via a power purchase agreement (PPA), or sometimes, the farm can be owned by the utility. Utility companies can then distribute the energy to commercial or residential customers that are connected to the utility grid.

Distributed Generation:

Distributed Generation refers to a variation of renewable technologies that generate electricity at or near the site where it will be used. By generating electricity closer to the end user, distributed generation projects help create greater flexibility and resilience in our energy infrastructure. Community solar programs are one example of distributed generation, as they’re typically smaller in scale, allowing room for more clean energy accessibility. DG project sizes can range anywhere from a small residential rooftop to a solar project large enough to provide clean energy for an entire community. Larger projects are generally located in closer proximity to homes and businesses and where they can be interconnected with the grid. Distributed generation projects often have the added benefit of improving the electricity grid since developers often fund improvements at the point of interconnection.


Microgrids are a small-scale version of a larger electrical grid that generates clean local energy directly to a community or group of users. Historically, microgrids have relied on diesel generators, but today, they are increasingly powered by green technology. Newer microgrid designs incorporate a combination of solar and battery storage, allowing them to continue operating even when there are outages due to severe weather. Microgrids built on solar and storage are forecasted to expand even more rapidly on a state and federal level in an effort to combat climate change and build a more resilient energy grid.

How is Solar Energy Produced? 

How is solar energy produced is a very common question and ties directly into how solar panels work. A single solar panel or module is made up of photovoltaic cells. These cells are where solar power comes from. Solar panels work by absorbing the sun’s rays through their solar cells, generating direct current (DC) energy that is then converted into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what powers your home. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how solar farms work and how the solar energy is produced.

  1. Solar cells absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) energy.
  2. Solar inverters convert DC energy to alternating current (AC) electricity, which can be used to power homes and businesses.
  3. Solar energy flows through the meter and to the grid

What are the Benefits of Solar Farms?

There are numerous benefits of solar farms, ranging from their positive environmental impact to the way they make clean energy more accessible.

No pollution:

Solar farms represent one of the most efficient ways to generate clean, renewable energy that is 100% produced by the sun. There is no risk of pollution of local water resources, and no CO2 emissions are produced throughout a solar farm’s lifespan.

Long lifespan:

Most solar panels last 25 years or longer, thanks to ongoing improvements in production and technology.

Dual Land Use:

Solar farms allow for dual use of the land for things like farming or grazing, creating an opportunity for low-impact land use that has a positive impact on the environment.

In most cases, the land area beneath and around the modules can be reseeded to create a natural meadow important for pollinators, birds, and small mammal species so that the project area is a productive habitat – of a different but vital type.

Democratized Clean Energy Access: 

In addition to the environmental benefits, solar farms increase accessibility to the benefits of clean energy. Community solar programs allow homeowners and renters to subscribe to a solar farm and receive credits on their utility bills. This makes clean energy more accessible, especially for those without suitable roofs for solar panels or who find installation costs prohibitive.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar Farms:

How much land is required for a solar farm?

Land requirements vary depending on the solar developer and market. At Nexamp, we typically require parcels to be at least 5 acres and rooftops to be at least 40,000 square feet.

Can solar farms operate in cloudy or rainy climates?

Although solar farms are at their peak efficiency when it is bright and sunny outside, they still produce energy in cloudy and rainy conditions.

What happens to solar farms at the end of their lifecycle?

Decommissioning processes vary depending on the developer of the solar project. At Nexamp, we remove the system and all materials, recycle the solar panels, and restore the area back to its original condition.

Are solar farms safe for the environment?

While the actual manufacturing process of a solar panel does require the use of greenhouse gases, 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 the manufacturing process decreased by 17% to 24% every time solar panel installations doubled in the last 40 years.

How long do solar projects last?

Nexamp solar projects typically last between 20 to 35 years as this is the average lifespan of the solar panels that we use. 

How much power can a solar farm generate?

When it comes to how much power a solar farm can generate, it really depends on the acres needed (the size of the solar farm) and how efficient the solar panels are. The impact is potentially huge. Noor Complex solar farm is the largest solar power plant in the world. With a 580 MW capacity, the farm is estimated to provide clean energy to more than one million people. At Nexamp, we expect our 7.5 MW solar farm in Newfield, NY to generate 9 million kWh of electricity in 2020 and offset 14,766,411 pounds of carbon that would be emitted by generating the same amount of electricity through fossil fuels.

Do you need planning permission for a solar farm?

Short answer – yes! Once a site has been identified and a solar developer has reached an agreement with a land or property owner, permitting is the first stage of the process. During this process, a solar developer works closely with municipalities to ensure they are in compliance with environmental regulations and zoning laws.When the project is permitted and approved by electrical and building inceptors, construction of a solar farm can begin.

How long does it take to build a solar farm?

Once the permitting is approved from both the electrical and building inspectors, construction can begin. Depending on how large the solar farm is, and how many solar workers are involved, solar farm development can range anywhere between 3-4 months, weather permitted. After construction, tests are conducted to ensure the solar farm is working safely and properly.

Is a solar farm a good investment?

Landowners are recognizing the immense opportunity that solar leasing provides to their business without significantly restricting their agriculture capacity. Many are turning to solar farm development as an alternative to more permanent development, such as housing subdivisions or shopping plazas. These projects bring financial security in the form of recurring lease revenue, in addition to supporting a landowner or farmer’s operation.


At Nexamp, we firmly believe in the value of solar farms in democratizing access to clean energy while supporting nationwide decarbonization efforts. To learn more about how solar farms can benefit you, check out our guide to community solar!