What communities need to know
What’s a solar farm?
A “solar farm” is a collection of interconnected solar panels that are strategically placed to maximize their ability to capture sunlight and convert it to electricity. Sunlight contains little packets of energy called photons. When photons from the sun reach the solar panels, it causes energy electrons within those panels to move and in turn create an electrical current.
The electric current is then sent to an inverter which converts it from DC to AC. That power is then pushed out from the solar site onto the transmission lines where the electricity is then distributed to households and businesses.
A solar farm is also sometimes called a solar project, solar power plant, solar ranch, or solar facility.
Does it matter who builds and operates a solar farm?
The solar energy industry has grown by leaps and bounds since Silicon Ranch was founded in 2011, yet it is still a relatively immature industry with a wide range of participants. What has become evident over this period is that not all solar companies are created and operate equally.
As the long-term owner and operator of every project we develop—a distinguishing characteristic of our business model—we are uniquely motivated to become active members of the communities where we locate for the life of the project. We’re here to help communities like yours build on their unique legacies while respecting local history and identity.
We buy and own the land we use
Our preference to own the land we build on, making us property owners and taxpayers in the local community, distinguishes us from other solar developers. We never sell or transfer our projects; we own, operate, and manage each site for the life of the project and have a 100% track record for successful delivery.
We restore and protect the land
We recognize our responsibility as land stewards and work to improve soil, water, natural habitat, and air quality on and around our solar farms using Regenerative Energy® practices.
We boost local economies
Our solar farms inject communities with significant new tax revenues that support infrastructure, schools, and other community-identified priorities, without requiring government services in exchange. In doing so, those communities are able to grow on their own terms.
Spotlight on: Hattiesburg Solar Farm
The residents of Hattiesburg, Mississippi are neighbors to the Hattiesburg Solar Farm.
Silicon Ranch constructed the facility in partnership with Mississippi Power, the Area Development Partnership, the city of Hattiesburg, Forrest County, and Silicon Ranch. The facility has been producing renewable solar energy since 2017.
“Having Silicon Ranch here has only added to and diversified an economy we already had… For the longest time, this site sat unused. It was a vacant piece of property. And now it generates funding for not only our schools, but also the community – and it didn’t require a lot of us.”
– Toby Barker, Mayor, City of Hattiesburg MS
The Solar Farm Lifecycle
We work with a community like yours to find the right property for a solar project. We want to make sure that the land, sun exposure, and other factors, including proximity to the electric grid, are just right.
We meet with community leaders to create a project plan that benefits local stakeholders and that supports local community initiatives.
We buy the land from the property owner and own it for the long term. We design our projects with reliability and the highest performance in mind over a 40-year useful life.
Building a new solar project means new job creation. Each solar project requires skilled labor and a talented workforce. In addition to training opportunities, Silicon Ranch works to hire from the local labor pool and the military veteran community.
Silicon Ranch designs, constructs, and manages its projects using regenerative land management practices called Regenerative Energy. Through Regenerative Energy we are able to help restore soil health, biodiversity, and water quality on and around our solar farms.
The solar arrays, or solar panels, are mounted on one of two racking systems, fixed mount or tracking. While fixed mount racking systems are stationary, tracking systems are constructed to move the panels with the sun from sunrise to sundown. A computer-controlled program makes sure the panels capture as much sunlight as possible throughout the changing seasons.
Sunlight contains packets of energy called photons. When photons from the sun reach the solar panels, they cause electrons within those panels to move, creating an electrical current. The current is sent to inverters, which convert it to a form of power that can be used on the electric grid. The power is then sent to a substation through high-voltage power lines, where electricity is distributed to the power grid. The power grid then sends that electricity to homes and businesses.
Our state-of-the-art network operations center helps Silicon Ranch monitor performance of our entire portfolio coast to coast. As the long term owner of every project we develop, Silicon Ranch has a vested interest in seeing that our projects perform as designed for the life of the project. Should a solar farm underperform for any reason, Silicon Ranch takes immediate, corrective measures through our network of on-site service personnel.
At the end of the solar project’s useful life, it will either be repowered with newer solar technology or decommissioned. Decommissioning means that all components are removed and the ground is stabilized. As the long-term owner of our solar farms, Silicon Ranch takes full responsibility for safely decommissioning our projects, recycling and repurposing equipment, and leaving the site in as good of, if not better, condition than when we first find it.
FAQs About Solar Farms
Large-scale solar farms in the U.S. range in size from 7 acres to over 4,000 acres.
Solar panel size varies by manufacturer. On average, solar panels for large scale projects are about 6 feet long by 4 feet wide.
Silicon Ranch typically uses the term solar farm, solar project, solar facility, or solar ranch. “Solar Farm” is a term that is commonly used in the industry to describe the way solar uses land and the sun to harvest a “crop” in the form of energy generation.
When we are searching for land to use for a project, we take several factors into account. Land for a solar farm needs to be relatively flat, big enough to accommodate the required capacity to meet the needs of our customers, and near electrical infrastructure such as a substation or transmission lines so we can interconnect to the electric grid. We choose properties that meet these requirements.
We aim to locate projects out of sight from homes, but sometimes it’s necessary to build a project within view of residences. We listen and respond to community input and work hard to ensure that our projects will not change the look or feel of the community. Use of setbacks and vegetative buffers can shield the project from view. Large solar projects have a low profile (8-15 feet from grade), similar to a greenhouse or single-story residence.
Large scale solar projects create construction jobs and increased business for local services such as hotels and restaurants. Solar projects also create high quality, long-term jobs for vegetation management and other operations and maintenance of the facility.
Silicon Ranch partners with or employs a diverse set of land managers, including ranchers and farmers, mowing partners, and agrivoltaic technicians recruited from rural communities.
We give a preference to the local labor pool and the military veteran community to fill these roles, further distributing the positive economic impact of our solar farm in your community.
Solar farms do not pose a threat to wildlife. Responsible solar development can actually improve, rather than harm, wildlife habitat and enhance biodiversity.
Silicon Ranch’s approach to land management has demonstrated that responsible solar development can, in fact, enhance the protection of wildlife habitat. Evidence reveals it is demonstrably improving wildlife habitat, specifically through an increase in bobwhite quail populations at certain projects.
As another example, Silicon Ranch has developed and funded a private Gopher Tortoise Sanctuary in partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR) on our privately owned lands in Clay County, GA. Working together, Silicon Ranch and GA DNR have relocated several tortoise from surrounding projects, and have room for more. We take wildlife habitat very seriously, and our investment in this sanctuary is testament.
No. Silicon Ranch constructs Photovoltaic facilities, which absorb solar energy rather than reflecting it, and therefore do not heat up.
When a solar farm is no longer efficient or capable of being repowered, the system is dismantled and decommissioned, and the equipment is removed. The land is returned to the condition in which it existed prior to the installation of the solar project or in better condition. All costs associated with the decommissioning process are the responsibility of the project owner.
Because Silicon Ranch owns each of our solar farms and the land we occupy for the life of the project, we are long-term members of every community in which we operate. This means we are invested in ensuring that decommissioning will occur safely and responsibly, and that the site remains in excellent condition.
We are leading our industry in responsible end-of-life management of solar equipment. We are the first utility-scale developer to partner with SOLARCYCLE, a solar-specialized recycling company, to pioneer panel recycling and re-use at scale. We are already recycling, reusing, or refurbishing our early end-of-life equipment. SOLARCYCLE’s approach to module recycling recovers approximately 95% of solar panel value, which can be returned to the supply chain and used to support domestic manufacturing of new panels here in the United States.
Silicon Ranch has a systematic approach to health and safety and is committed to the goal of zero recordable safety incidents. Accordingly, the team gives every consideration to safety and control measures as part of overall project design. In addition to his 25+ years of environmental, health and safety experience, Silicon Ranch’s Director of Environmental, Health, Safety, and Security—Jim Barfield, CSP, CHST—has deep credentials to lead the company’s approach to safety. Along with qualifications that include BSCP certifications, FEMA incident command, accident investigation, and OSHA 30 qualifications, he is a veteran of the United States Army as a Health Specialist of Preventative Medicine where he educated personnel on pathogen exposure, disease and occupational illness prevention, enforced military regulations governing sanitary practice and industrial hygiene, and investigated and controlled sources of pathogen and toxin exposure both inside and outside of United States borders.
Our projects follow and adhere to all local, state, and federal regulations including fencing, electric codes, and signage. Additionally, they are monitored 24/7 so that any disturbance to the system can be quickly and safely acted upon.
Once construction commences, external to the site, we post appropriate warnings in traffic ways to alert drivers of impending truck entrances to the roadway. Internal to the site there will be controls in place to regulate vehicles and heavy equipment on site.
The materials and components that comprise a solar energy generating facility are not hazardous to humans. Protection of the environment is very important to Silicon Ranch.
There is some truck and trailer traffic during the construction of solar farms, including 18-wheelers delivering supplies during the installation. Silicon Ranch coordinates to provide precise operation schedules as the construction of a specific project approaches. Once operational, the sites are remotely monitored and rarely visited except for periodic and routine maintenance. This is usually accomplished with 1-2 pick-up trucks or vans, depending on the crew.
How long it takes to build a solar farm depends on a variety of factors, including how large the project is. Typically, the larger the project, the longer construction takes. On average, it takes twelve months to build a 100 MW solar farm.
Solar farms are quiet neighbors. Solar panels do not produce noise and the slight hum that the inverters produce is inaudible past the property boundaries.
No. An examination of property values in states across the U.S. shows that large scale solar arrays have no measurable impact on the value of neighboring properties, and in some cases may even have positive effects. Being close to a solar farm does not deter the sales of agricultural or residential land.
Solar modules are designed to absorb (rather than reflect) as much light as possible and are covered with a protective layer of anti-reflective matte glass.
Each project is different, but typically a solar project will generate steady and significant new tax revenues that support infrastructure, local schools, and other community identified priorities, both immediately and for the long-term, while requiring little to no county services in return and helping to keep taxes low for homeowners.
A solar farm will also mean a large capital investment in the community that creates construction and operations jobs and increased business for local services like hotels and restaurants, strengthens the regional economy and workforce, and often helps attract more investment that brings even more jobs and tax revenues for decades to come.
A solar farm in your community also means more reliable electric service for homes and businesses and increased stability for the regional electric grid. Adding solar power helps diversify the energy mix and therefore helps reduce reliance on any single source of energy, while decreasing carbon emissions.
Yes! Silicon Ranch solar farms follow and adhere to all local, state, and federal regulations including fencing, electric codes, and signage. Additionally, Silicon Ranch monitors our projects 24/7 so that any disturbance to the system can be quickly and safely acted upon.
You might have heard that solar farms produce electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Exposure to EMFs is a part of normal life, from the appliances used in our homes to the electrical lines in our neighborhoods. At the perimeter fencing of a solar project, EMF exposure is far lower than that found inside a typical home.
Solar photovoltaic panels are made of tempered glass and pass rigorous hail and other weather testing. The two most common types of solar panels—silicon-based and thin film—are both required to pass the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Leaching Characteristic Procedure test, meaning that these panels are nonhazardous.
 Southern Environmental Law Center (PDF)
Stormwater management plans are a required part of the solar development process. Professional engineers prepare these plans to ensure that projects do not contribute to erosion or flooding. Once operational and over the life of the project, Silicon Ranch’s use of regenerative land management practices, including the establishment of perennial deep-rooted vegetation and elimination of annual tillage, irrigation, and fertilizer, restores soil health, allowing the soil to absorb more water, reducing runoff. Because the land on a solar farm is not paved, a responsibly developed and managed solar project creates less stormwater runoff than most other types of development.
Silicon Ranch aims to refrain from the use of any pesticides at all of our projects, unless required by state law where the project is located to mitigate noxious weeds determined injurious to agricultural or horticultural crops or, in some instances, to prevent small targeted amounts of vegetation from growing up into equipment that would interfere with plant performance and impede the facility’s ability to deliver power to serve homes and businesses in the long-term. When circumstances require that we use pesticides, Silicon Ranch is committed to minimizing use, meaning that we only spot spray EPA approved herbicides – which are commonly used on timber farms – when required. We never broadcast spray herbicides or pesticides.
We recognize that our responsibility as a good neighbor doesn’t stop at our fence line. Rather than viewing the land housing our solar projects as a liability, we recognize that land and vegetation are valuable natural resources and biological assets. When land and vegetation are managed properly, and in alignment with natural systems, we can revitalize soils, restore grassland ecosystems, increase biodiversity, sequester carbon, improve water quality, and build better solar facilities. Ultimately, through our Regenerative Energy approach, our goal is to leave the land better than we found it.
We recognize each community’s pride in the unique ecosystems that make them up, and we are committed to designing, building, and operating our solar facility in a way that continues that legacy, in partnership with those communities and surrounding areas.
The supporting structures that hold the modules are designed to withstand wind loads of 105-120 mph.
When siting a project, the first part to consider is location – utility scale PV plants need to be near a viable transmission or distribution line to allow for connection to the grid. Additionally, consolidating the PV plant into a concentrated location allows for more efficient and effective connection to the grid. The second part to consider is the size. Silicon Ranch’s customers typically require more generation capacity than what these locations can accommodate. Another factor is that not all existing buildings were designed or built to hold the structural load of a PV plant on the rooftops.
Building PV plants on landfills presents permitting and construction challenges, environmental challenges, such as avoiding damage to the landfill capping system, and engineering challenges, such as potential settlement of the landfill area that can lead to structural damage to the solar generating equipment.
We aim to deliver low-cost and reliable renewable energy into the communities that the power will serve. Each community has a range of siting options available, including both rooftop and ground mounted. In addition to questions of scale and structural stability, rooftop is by far the most expensive option for the installation of solar energy. Ground-mounted solar energy is the lowest cost form of new electricity generation in the United States today, and it is an important energy source for helping to keep rates low for local homes and businesses.
Learn more about Silicon Ranch’s focus on domestic manufacturing
“Silicon Ranch is one of the largest owners of solar assets in the United States. And they have a deep commitment to sustainability and regenerative solar, both in terms of agriculture but also creating a circular economy. And we’re thrilled to be working with them in a deep partnership to scale this for the industry.
By partnering with us and to recycle the panels, they’re sending a signal to the rest of the industry and helping to create a collaborative environment and consensus for the industry to get together to recycle all these end of life panels and create that circular economy.”