Instead of negotiating a tricky lease with a landowner to get your first solar farm off the ground, consider buying your own multiple-acre plot for longer returns on your investment. Before rushing out to buy the first plot you find with a southern exposure, find out what to look for so that low prices don't tempt you to pick land inappropriate for your needs. Discover five crucial land features necessary for building a profitable solar farm.
Look For Degraded Soil
Start by looking for land that has little other commercial value, which ensures a lower price and leaves valuable farm and residential land free for those uses. Properties that are degraded by excessive fertilizer applications or waste spills can be used for green purposes when covered over with solar panels. If you do find that only farm land is available near enough to power lines, consider improving the value even further as you use it by
- Planting low growing cover crops under the panels to enrich the soil with organic matter and nitrogen, which also limits the amount of moving necessary
- Seeding native wildflower mixes to feed area pollinators and help with the pollination of neighboring fields
- Installing the panels higher so that animals can still graze underneath, bringing in layers of manure to slowly and naturally fertilize the soil over the years.
Aim For Flatness
Some developers seek out southern slopes, but the flexible installation nature of modern panels means that flatland is better. A generally flat property allows your crew to move across the land much faster when bringing in heavy panels and support frames. It's also much easier to mow and maintain the ground under the panels when your crews aren't struggling to navigate up and down hillsides at the same time. Keep in mind that large parcels of flat land tend to cost more than you might expect, unless it's a designated brown site like a covered-over landfill.
Stay Near Power Lines
The proximity of power transmission lines is perhaps the most important feature determining if a property is suitable for generating solar power or not. Without a nearby connection for sending all that electricity you collect to the grid, you won't be able to turn any profit. Batteries alone only work for direct use of the power, and most solar farms only make decent money by selling the power to major distributors, not to nearby homes and businesses.
Make sure there's a steady connection to three-phase power within 1/4th of a mile near the property. If you need to run a new line any farther than that distance, you'll end up spending so much that the investment will greatly eat into your profits for the first decade or more.
Check For Environmental Concerns
Of course, you can't buy a wetland or marsh and expect the hundreds of pounds of panels and frames to resist gravity's drag. Look for land free from rivers, lakes, creeks, vernal ponds, and other water features protected by local building regulations. Many empty lots are also part of agricultural protection areas that limit the potential uses, so make sure you pick a property already zoned as commercial or industrial to ensure the various environmental limitations won't hold you back.
Avoid Settlements And Sites
Finally, try to stay away from neighborhoods, cultural attractions, and other built-up destinations. It's far easier to nestle a solar panel farm in a relative wasteland of empty lots and industrial structures than to convince homeowners to stare at it every day as they relax on their porches. Look for sparsely occupied rural areas for a combination of low land prices and easy power line access, but consider a fringe of shrubbery or low-growing trees around the property lines to disguise the look of your farm as well.
For more information on land that's available for sale, check with a professional like those at Adobe Homes Florida.