Solar Farms - Everything You Need to Know

Posted in Leadership on Nov 25 2022, by Pamela NewenhamPamela Newenham

What are they, how do they work and what's the future for them?

Solar energy has been used for centuries in many parts of the world, but only recently has it started to gain traction as an alternative source of energy, mainly due to the fact it has become affordable enough to use on a large scale. Solar power is one of the most promising forms of renewable energy available today. It’s clean, free, and abundant. Solar farms are becoming more popular as the cost of electricity continues to rise.

This article will explain what solar farms are, how they work and what their future holds.

What is a solar farm?

A solar photovoltaic system, or, to make your lives a little easier, a PV system, is an electric power system designed to supply usable power using photovoltaics. Usually composed of one or more solar panels combined with an inverter and other electrical and mechanical hardware that use energy from the sun to generate electricity.

A solar farm is a large collection of solar photovoltaic panels that absorb energy from the sun and convert it to electricity.

PV systems can vary greatly in size, from small rooftop solar arrays to massive utility-scale solar farms. Solar panels are typically ground mounted or roof mounted.

There is no ‘best’ mounting option, with both options having advantages and disadvantages. Much depends on available roof space, the roof’s pitch and facing, and any restrictive covenants related to roof mounting. Similarly, you will have to assess whether the roof can actually hold the additional weight of the panels and whether your insurance company will allow solar panels to be installed on the property. Meanwhile, solar panels on the ground can work equally well as roof mounting but will obviously use up ground space. Again, planning permission may be required.

The best case for solar is when a site has a constant daytime electrical load 7 days a week - i.e. production facilities or sites with a lot of refrigeration or A/C.

Top 5 Considerations for Solar Farms

  • Insurance: Will your insurance company allow solar on your roof from a fire hazard perspective?
  • Roof structure: Can your roof structure take the additional loading?
  • Interconnect to LV infrastructure: Are there spare ways on the LV panels and is the distance from the inverter reasonable <50m
  • Local grid code compliance: What is the process for connecting an embedded generator?
  • Performance monitoring: How do you know you will be getting the most from the solar plant that you have invested in? How do you know the panels are not fouled or inverters not operating?

Top electrical considerations for Solar Farms:

  • Load: What is the max load the site can use in June at midday?
  • Inverter siting: Is there an area, inside or outside, as close as possible to the array and electrical plant room that is suitable for siting the inverters?
  • Existing generators: Are there any existing generators that need to be isolated from the array in the event of a grid failure or auto start?
  • EGIP: Wherever possible, inverters should be sited together to minimise the amount of G10 relays required.

Why should the manufacturing industry use solar farms?

Renewable energy has seen rapid advancements in the past few decades and collectively is beginning to overtake fossil fuels as the primary means of energy production. Solar power is among the most prolific forms of renewable energy and is the most widely used due to the many benefits it brings.

  • Renewable energy source: Let's start with the most obvious benefit first; solar energy is one of the world's few truly renewable energy sources. Scientists estimate the sun has 5 billion years of energy left in it, meaning that we can count on the sun to shine for many years to come.
  • Lower energy bills: Another significant benefit for businesses is that it can significantly reduce energy bills. Generating your own electricity on-site means that your business is less reliant on the electricity grid and traditional utility suppliers to power your business. In a nutshell, the more energy you produce, the more money you will save.
  • Low maintenance costs: Another attractive aspect of PV solar systems is the low maintenance costs involved in preserving them. Since they have no moving parts, no wear or tear is involved. So, once you've covered the initial cost, you can expect very little spending on maintenance and ongoing repair work. Most owners manage by cleaning them a few times a year.

There are certain benefits applicable only to pharmaceuticals. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry is power-intensive, with processes requiring uninterrupted and extensive energy flow in the manufacturing units for the production process. Solar energy can provide both. It can be used in various applications: blending, granulation, milling, coating, tablet pressing, filling, and water heating. At the same time, it is a powerful resource that is more cost-efficient and resource-efficient in the long run.

Furthermore, adopting solar panels is a visible way for pharma companies to demonstrate their commitment to public health and social responsibility. As experts in medicine, with the ultimate goal of preserving life, the pharmaceutical industry has a professional and moral responsibility to take a leading role in reducing the environmental impact of their industry.

Making Pharma Greener with Solar Power

The pharmaceutical industry plays a pivotal role in the functioning of society. The pharmaceutical industry is a crucial asset to the global economy, driving medical progress through research and developing new medicines that improve health and quality of life for patients around the world.

Pharma, as with many other industries around the world, has a significant impact on the environment, emitting more greenhouse gases than even the automotive sector.

There is a desire within the industry to make a concerted effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the pharmaceutical industry. In a GlobalData survey conducted last year, 43% of respondents believed the environment to be the most pressing issue for the pharmaceutical industry to address. The question is, how?

One solution is the adoption of industrial solar PV.

Many pharma companies have already begun adopting renewable forms of energy, primarily solar farms, to curb pollution and bring in more savings. As the industry wakes up to the role of sustainability in business strategies, solar farms have emerged as an excellent alternative to thermal power resources.

The future health of the planet

Climate change is no longer a slowly accumulating danger but a present threat to human well-being and the health of the planet.

It's only a matter of time before governments begin mandating emission reductions that may impact the pharmaceutical industry. The industry can wait for external bodies to direct how it acts or take the lead and embrace its role as a global caretaker – not just of individual patients, but the one world which we all share.

How CoolPlanet can assist you with installing solar for your company

Rooftop solar is the easiest to get as there is the least amount of issues. Ground mounted solar requires a geotechnical survey which is more onerous. If you opt for ground-mounted solar, we manage all the ESB grid permissions and applications to EirGrid. We install a G10 relay that prevents power from going back to the grid if there is a power cut. This protects any technicians working on the grid.

If you combine solar with an industrial heat pump you could have a 3-year payback. As opposed to a 5-year with solar alone. If you include a heat pump, EV chargers and solar then you will receive a grant of up to 30% of funding. Furthermore, if you put in commercial battery storage to store excess solar energy created, these can be leveraged for revenue from selling services to the grid. This is also known as demand side response.

CoolPlanet provides end-to-end services looking after everything from design to energy grant applications, planning applications to procurement and installation. No shutdown of your site operations is required.