Thanks to the growing ambition for renewable energy production, Illinois has created more opportunities for its residents and businesses to take advantage of alternative energy solutions like solar power. From Chicagoland to farmland, Illinoisans are benefiting from project affordability programs and local initiatives to increase clean energy accessibility. Here, we’re taking a look at solar farms, a community energy arrangement that’s growing in popularity across the country, and the effects on the rural communities that host them.
What are Solar Farms?
Solar farms, or community solar power systems, are large-scale installations that provide clean energy to a local community. These systems are commonly mounted on the ground and span across fields of land to generate enough electricity for a community of residents, businesses, and/or subscribers. Subscribers are customers of the solar farm that opted to subscribe to the clean energy instead of relying solely on traditional utility electricity; these customers can reside within a community near the solar farm or a nearby city. These projects may be owned by a utility company, or more often, a third-party such as a solar company or local organization seeking to contribute to sustainable energy production.
What Do Solar Farms Look Like?
Community solar is designed to generate a large amount of energy, so these utility-scale projects must be installed in an area large enough to host them. It’s common for these projects to consist of rows of ground-mount solar panels spanning across fields of land. Land availability/affordability, regional sun exposure, and local grid interconnection all help determine exactly where solar farms can be built. Since rural land is often more affordable and avoids urban blockage such as building shadows, it’s a more beneficial location for community solar plants. States like Illinois, that have widespread rural areas, are witnessing the growth of solar farms.
How Do Rural Communities Benefit?
Solar farms help contribute to rural communities economically and directly. Community solar provides local residents electricity at a lower cost than traditional utility electricity. Local farmers and landowners can also benefit from the land supporting the energy system if the system owners choose to lease instead of purchase the property. Solar energy systems have a typical lifespan of 25-30 years; so the system owner would be paying the lease for decades, ensuring an economic contribution for the duration of the system’s life.
Even when the land is purchased for the solar farm, local ordinances may require additional contributions for the rural community. For instance, Virginia’s Halifax County requires solar developers to plant pollinator plants around their community solar installations to attract bees and other species that benefit the health of agricultural farms. Additionally, solar power systems have a minimal impact on the natural environment and land where they are installed, meaning that the projects won’t leave behind damage if the land is restored for other uses.
YellowLite’s Experience with Rural Solar
While our company may be best known for our residential and commercial solar installations, our team has completed many rural solar projects over the years. We understand the importance of strategic land-use and why it should benefit the local region. Fortunately, our solar designs have the durability to withstand extreme weather and interaction with livestock while still having a minimal impact on the surrounding land.
Learn more about rural solar installations from a YellowLite solar consultant!
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