INFOGRAPHIC: How a Solar Garden is Built
There is a lot that goes into building and operating a solar garden before it begins producing clean solar energy and providing you with savings on your electricity costs. Spoiler Alert: Despite what the name implies, the solar panels do not magically sprout out of the Earth.
First, we set out to find a piece of land for the solar garden. We look for land that is flat and unshaded, so it is getting the most sun exposure, and near a utility substation. A utility substation is a structure on the power grid where electricity is transitioned from the power plant to the distribution grid, which then disseminates it to people’s homes.
Once we find a parcel of land that meets the initial criteria, we begin the due diligence process. This includes identifying potential impacts to the land and local environment; confirming that the land is not an archaeological or historical site; and identifying where we might be able to make positive impacts to local agriculture. We also conduct what is called an “interconnect feasibility study” to make sure that there won’t be any problems if we connect the solar garden to the utility’s grid at that particular point. When it is confirmed that a parcel of land is ideal, we execute a lease or purchase option with the landowner.
Next, we have to get approval from the local municipality to gain permitting to build the solar garden. This includes permit applications and meetings with local government and communities.
The utility then reviews the proposed sites. SunShare, the utility, and the Public Utilities Commission negotiate the cost and details of the interconnection, and once everyone agrees, SunShare signs a 25-year agreement with the utility to connect the solar garden to their grid.
Next is the fun part – equipment procurement and construction. This takes about 2-4 months. When construction is completed, we test it with the utility company to make sure it is working, and one month later it is producing clean, renewable electricity…and savings!