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Frequently Asked Solar Energy Questions

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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. 

As the U.S. energy landscape evolves to more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar generation and less conventional fossil fuel generation, energy storage will play an essential role to stabilize the grid. The electric grid works by matching supply and demand at every moment for the grid to function reliably. Energy storage systems store excess energy in times of low demand to be used later when it is needed, especially during peak demand hours and in times of emergency or grid outages. Storage helps to place energy on the grid when it is needed, instead of only when it is being produced when the wind is blowing, or sun is shining.

Energy storage is needed on a grid-scale for three main reasons:

  1. When charged with renewable energy like solar, energy storage delivers firm, flexible, clean energy and capacity.
  2. Energy storage can store energy in times of excess production and discharge that energy when it is needed.
  3. Energy storage provides real-time balance of power supply and demand, creating more reliable, stable, and productive power grids for our country.

In the most basic explanation, an energy storage system charges by taking AC power from the grid or co-located generation facility and converting it to DC power to store in batteries. The system will automatically stop charging once the battery is at full charge. When there is an energy need on the grid, the system discharges energy back to the grid by converting the energy from DC back into AC.

Yes. Energy storage has been a part of our electricity grid since the 1930s and has a safety record that is similar or better than other electricity generation, distribution, or management methods. Energy storage facilities have multiple layers of automatic protection systems and are typically enclosed by fencing, which prevents children and the general public from coming into contact with the installations, thus preventing unsafe conditions.

Yes. Energy storage has no direct emissions. It requires no pipelines. Its systems typically require a minimal footprint. It recycles electricity. Energy storage will also help cut emissions as it takes more of the load off traditional fossil-fuel based generation. (ESA, 2019)

All batteries accept, store, and release electricity on demand. Batteries use chemistry, in the form of chemical potential to store energy.

The batteries used for grid-scale applications are very similar to the lithium-ion batteries in your phone or laptop computer, except they are much larger.  Grid-scale battery systems utilize this proven technology that we take for granted in our everyday lives.  Just like your phone, grid batteries are rechargeable, though the heavy-duty design of grid-scale batteries allows them to be charged and discharged daily for decades.

Yes. Battery energy storage costs continue to decline as the production and supply chains increase efficiencies. Energy storage is at an attractive cost to utilities and other energy users, as evidenced by large increases in grid-scale energy storage installations over the last several years.  Energy storage system costs are forecast to continue to fall, with increasing demand, which will lead to an increasing number of installations throughout the U.S.

The solar panels absorb the energy created by the sun, creating direct current electricity. The energy battery charges in times of excess energy production and discharges when energy is needed. Energy storage helps to balance the grid, creating a more reliable and stable transmission and distribution system. Clean, reliable energy is delivered to commercial, industrial, and residential customers.

Energy storage installations will either utilize outdoor containers or dedicated-use buildings.  For the outdoor container design, batteries will be installed in climate- controlled outdoor containers, with multiple containers daisy-chained to central inverters.  An alternate higher density system will utilize a dedicated-use climate-controlled building(s) that will house multiple aisles of batteries in an open-rack configuration connected to inverters outside of the building.   There are advantages to both systems depending on local codes and site considerations, but the bulk of the systems to date have been pre-engineered containerized systems.

Lithium-ion cells rarely experience failure leading to fire, however, modern codes and standards such as NFPA-855 and UL-9540a require several independent preventative features to be included to minimize the risk of fire.  With all these features in place and fully operational, the likelihood of a fire is reduced even further.  These features include a battery management system, remote monitoring, gas detection, ventilation, and in some installations, fire suppression.

Lithium-ion cells do not leak electrolytes during normal operation like some ‘flooded’ lead-acid batteries used in substations and UPS equipment.  Lithium-ion battery modules will only leak if they experience catastrophic failure.  Most of the leakage will be in the form of gases, and the volume of liquid electrolyte will be trace amounts of volume compared to that found in the more common flooded lead-acid batteries. The liquid electrolyte is technically in the cell itself, although cells are housed within modules, within racks, within containers.

The energy storage equipment will be designed to be consistent with local noise requirements.  The noise emitted is no higher than most electrical transformers or HVAC condensers.

Once the construction phase of the energy storage system is complete, and the facility is operational, the primary source of noise will be fans associated with the inverter and battery cooling systems and will be similar to the sound emitted from commercial rooftop HVAC units.

During the development phase, we will look to minimize the impact on the surrounding community by:

Evaluating adjacent land uses (current and future) to evaluating the compatibility of an energy storage project

Minimizing environmental disturbance to the existing site through best management practices with respect to natural resources and storm water and sediment control.  Environmental surveys will be conducted for all energy storage projects, and the projects will be coordinated with the appropriate environmental regulatory agencies.

Developing a comprehensive understanding of local zoning codes to design in accordance with existing requirements and pursue variances when only necessary

Utilizing setbacks from property lines and public rights-of-way and strategic landscaping to provide a landscape buffer that reduces and/or eliminates visual impacts of battery storage units from adjacent land uses

Utilizing natural and native vegetation in the landscaping to preserve the rural character of the area

When proper setbacks and vegetative screening are used accordingly, energy storage facilities are excellent neighbors as they do not create sound, traffic, or visual obstruction.

Energy storage facilities provide positive impacts to the local economy through increased tax revenues to local governments, the creation of new jobs (during the construction phase), and landowner royalties. At the same time, energy storage facilities DO NOT strain public infrastructure, schools, or emergency services, making energy storage facilities a true “silent revenue generator” that benefits the entire community over several decades.

Energy storage projects produce no emissions, waste, or byproducts.

Grid energy storage systems do not generate electricity.

The siting of a typical system consists of multiple enclosures, each with multiple battery racks and electrical equipment to safely change/discharge electricity to and from the grid.

Systems are safe for humans, property, and the environment; operate quietly and are easily placed in urban, suburban, and rural settings.

Energy storage projects may also be a good use of unused industrial zoned properties.

Batteries can last twenty years or more, depending on their usage.  They will undergo some degree of degradation over their lifetime, where they will experience reduced capacity—similar to how a cell phone battery loses charge capacity over time.

At the end of life, batteries are removed from the system and recycled in accordance with applicable requirements.