Solar farms (sun farms) are the wave of the utility future. These are vast expanses of land that are covered with panels that collect energy from the sun for conversion into electricity to be released into the power grid. While they are not all the pleasing to the eye, their appearance is at least interesting. They are not intricately designed, but designing a solar farm is not as simple as the farm’s appearance may make it seem. The simple appearance can be quite deceptive. After the intricacies of designing the actual panels, there is the not so easy task of laying them out in a way that will capture the most rays in any 24 hour period. This all begins, of course, with finding adequate land space.
Before designing a solar farm can even begin, there must be land for solar farms to sit on. This land must be open, with nothing to block the sun’s rays, and it must be located in an area that has a most sunny climate. Those areas of the world that are predominately cloudy, rainy, or have shorter days are not adequate. In recent years a few ideas have been tossed around that utilize otherwise unusable space for solar farms. Airports and brown fields are the most promising.
Considering that airports are very open spaces with huge portions of open land not being used for storage or runways, there is great potential for designing a solar farm at many of them. Instead of having to cut the grass and chase away wildlife, this land could be full of solar panels generating tons of clean, renewable energy. The same is true of brownfields, and Houston became one of the first U.S. cities to test this theory. Brownfields are large areas of open space that cannot be otherwise used due to hazardous materials. There is no harm in placing solar panels on these huge expanses of land however, and the entire planet benefits from what was otherwise an environmental hazard.
Once space is found, the next step in designing a solar farm is to configure on paper the design that will best utilize the space to collect as much of the sun’s energy as possible on any given day. This includes the number, size, and angle of the panels. It may involve having the panels be able to rotate and tilt as the day goes on in order to catch more direct sunlight as the sun moves, or it may include working around any shadows from buildings, such as in the case of the airfields. If solar engineers do their job well in designing a solar farm, it will capture the maximum amount of sunlight possible, and thus the land will be as productive as possible.