Solar getting smaller – economics of solar power leading the way towards more smaller projects

There seems to be a trend developing in the solar power arena – utilities are shifting away from huge large scale solar projects and are instead moving towards smaller sized projects.   A good example is the brand new 8 megawatt solar plant built on 50 acres of private land in North Palm Springs.

While the costs and the red tape involved in getting huge solar projects built are the main factors behind the shift away from huge solar farms, companies interested in solar are finding other benefits too.    Most of these smaller farms can be built on small tracts of privately owned land rather than public land, and there’s lots of small tracts of marginal, abandoned agricultural and brownsite land that would be perfect for small solar installations.

One of the biggest benefit of these smaller projects is the speed in which they can be built.  Since most are on privately owned land, they’re much easier to get through the city or county permit process – projects involving huge tracts of public land can take years to work their way through the various state and federal agencies involved.  One small project built by Roseville-based Solar Power Inc. in Palm Springs took only four and a half months to be approved.   According to Craig Ewing, director of planning,  “It went smoothly. We dealt with issues like grading, drainage, security, some issues on visible landscaping on the perimeter. I don’t recall there was anything of significance.”

Environmentalists like the smaller size too.  “One to 20 megawatts is a great size,” said Joan Taylor, chair of the Sierra Club’s California-Nevada desert energy committee. “Sited next to a substation, it can go directly to the grid. The state can ramp up quickly with much lest angst. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of marginal land, abandoned agricultural land in the desert that would be perfect.”

via: The Desert Sun


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