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Frequently Asked Solar Energy Questions

Q: How do solar projects produce energy through the winter and on cloudy days?

A solar project will be able to produce energy throughout the entire year, even on cloudy days. And while the output will be maximized on clear, sunny days, even when there are clouds in the sky, there is still solar radiation hitting the solar panels as the sunshine gets through the clouds.

Modern panels feature technology that uses bifacial modules on the front and rear side of the panels so they can absorb radiation to generate electricity. So, the rear side of the modules absorbs sunshine radiation that is reflected from the ground. When there is snow on the ground, it emphasizes the sunshine radiation absorbed from the ground.

Q: How are solar panels managed after they are no longer in use? Can they be recycled, and do hazardous waste disposal requirements apply?

A: The average life of solar PV panels can be 20-30 years or longer after initial installation. At the time of decommissioning, panels may be reused, recycled, or disposed of. There are a few different types of solar panels used in ground-mounted PV systems. Solar module manufacturers typically provide a list of materials used in their product, which may be used to determine the proper disposal requirements at the time of decommissioning. (1) 

In the U.S., end-of-life disposal of solar products is governed by the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as well as state policies in some situations. (2)  

Overall, national PV recycling seems to be on the rise over landfill disposal. 

1. MA Department of Energy Resources et al. (n.d.). Clean Energy Results Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Systems.
2. NC State University. (2017). Health and Safety Impact of Solar Photovoltaics. 

Q: Are there any public safety issues that arise from areas where solar arrays are installed?

A: Large-scale ground-mounted arrays are enclosed by fencing. This prevents children and the general public from coming into contact with the installations. Warning signs and sometimes alarm systems are installed to deter unauthorized individuals from entering the solar array area.

Q: Are there health risks from the electric and magnetic fields (EMF) from solar panels?

A: Solar energy produces no emissions, waste, odor, or byproducts. The extremely low-frequency EMF from PV arrays and transmission lines is the same as the EMF people are exposed to from household electrical appliances and wiring in buildings. 

Q: Can solar panels be damaged by hail and strong winds?

A: Solar panels are designed to withstand extreme weather, including hail and thunderstorms. However, just like your car windshield can get damaged, the same can happen to solar panels, although it is very rare. If a solar panel were to become damaged from severe weather or any other reason, it would likely be the glass that has become damaged, and there would be no risk of exposure to the contents. The Savion team has plenty of experience developing solar projects in high wind zones. Our projects have shown to be virtually undamaged by direct hits from CAT 3 storms in the past. But, even if something were to hit the area and damage the solar panels, the solar farm will be well insured with plans to make repairs. 

Q: Does the presence of ground-mounted solar arrays cause higher ambient temperatures in the surrounding neighborhood?

A: All available evidence indicates that there is no solar “heat island” effect caused by the functioning of solar arrays. PV panels are off the ground and surrounded by air, so the heat is dissipated very rapidly. It does not build up and become stored as with rooftops or pavement. 

Q: What is the best way to clean solar panel arrays?

A: The most effective way to clean solar panels is with natural weather sources such as rain. In addition, it does not take a large weather event to clean panels sufficiently.  Should lack of rain or extreme dust conditions warrant cleaning, a water truck is typically used to wash dirt and natural buildup from the panels. 

Q: If it snows, does the snow need to be actively removed from the panels?

A: Snow can serve as a natural cleaning agent that wipes away any dirt as it melts and slides away. In most cases, snow removal is not necessary. Still, typically there are operations and maintenance personnel monitoring solar panel arrays so they can remove snow if necessary.

Q: Do ground-mounted solar PV arrays negatively impact property values?

A: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), large-scale solar arrays often have no measurable impact on the value of adjacent properties. A review of literature nationwide shows little evidence that solar arrays influence nearby property values, which makes sense because once operational, solar projects are quiet facilities that generate little traffic (post-construction), create minimal sound, and produce no emissions. 

Q: How much farmland is utilized by a solar project?

A: Only a portion of farmland is suitable for solar energy generation. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), supplying the entire U.S. with 100% PV solar energy would require about 0.6% of America’s total land area. When a project is decommissioned, the land is returned to its original state, and farmers have the opportunity to go back to farming the land if they choose. 

Q: How important are reflectivity and potential visual impacts from solar projects?

A: Solar panels are designed to absorb solar energy and convert it into electricity. They reflect only about 2% of incoming light, so issues with glare from PV panels are rare. 

Q: How does the traffic associated with large solar projects impact nearby residential and agricultural property?

A: Solar projects do not attract high volumes of additional traffic after the construction phase is complete. 

Q: How does the sound of large solar projects impact nearby residential and agricultural property?

A: Solar projects are effectively silent, except for the tracking motors and inverters that might produce an ambient hum. This is typically not audible from outside the project enclosure.