INFOGRAPHIC: How a Solar Garden is Built
There's a lot that goes into building a community solar garden before it begins producing clean, solar energy for its subscribers. Spoiler Alert: Despite what the name implies, the solar panels do not 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 collected and added 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 we are able to 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 an agreement with the utility to connect the solar garden to their grid, typically for at least 20 or 25 years.
Next is the fun part – equipment procurement and construction! We purchase the solar panels, the racking, and all the electrical components that collect the sun's energy and turn it into electricity! This takes about 2-4 months. When construction is completed, we test the solar garden and have a final inspection with the utility company to make sure everything is working properly and safely.
And then comes the best part... our subscribers start receiving the benefits of clean, renewable electricity!