Eldorado Solar Project
Frequently Asked Questions
Solar is a growing industry that brings new investment into rural communities. Energy buyers, including utilities, retail consumers and commercial businesses, are increasingly demanding carbon-free power for environmental as well as economic reasons. The price of solar panels and related equipment has dropped significantly over the past 15 years at the same time policies and market demand call for increasing access to solar.
The planning of a solar project can take three to five years from the start of development, depending on local conditions and timelines for necessary permits, utility requirements, financing, land availability and other development needs. Construction of a solar farm can vary but is generally 9 to 15 months. The peak of activity is usually in the middle of construction, with periods of lesser activity during the beginning and end as the site is prepared and ultimately commissioned for service.
- Mid 2021 – Land Acquisition and Preliminary Environmental Work
- Early 2022 – Local Agreements, Engineering, and Permitting
- Late 2022 – Final Approvals
- 2023 – Begin Construction
- 2024 – Start of Operations
An engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor will be hired. The EPC contractor performs design, completes engineering, and manages construction of the plant for the project owner. The EPC contractor also awards construction materials contracts and subcontracts for certain portions of the work. We encourage our EPC contractors to use local contractors and vendors when possible.
Prior to the start of construction, we work with townships and county agencies to develop a detailed plan of the specific transportation routes, the number of trucks and maximum truck weights. The plan will also document the existing condition of the roadways as well as outline the plan for any necessary repairs and maintenance issues to be addressed due to project construction.
An experienced site supervisor employed will serve as the day-to-day manager of the site, with one or more employees with backgrounds as technicians, electricians, or similar expertise. Additionally, local contractors may be retained to provide support services consisting mainly of vegetation management but may also include snow removal, and maintenance services.
Small- and large-scale renewable energy is comparable to small and large grain markets. Electricity takes the path of least resistance, so chances are high that electricity being generated closest to your home is providing a portion of energy to your home or business – regardless of whether the local utility owns it. Electricity travels in the electrical grid to where it’s needed. When a light switch is flipped on, electricity travels through the grid to fulfill that need.
Fire safety systems include sensors in the solar array that can detect a fire occurring in a specific section of the array. The sensors notify maintenance and operation crew members and can then be powered off. The facility and equipment are monitored 24/7 to ensure the security and safety of equipment, the property, and the surrounding area. The operations team will have training with emergency services, and regular inspections will be conducted to ensure compliance with all local regulations.
Our vegetation management plan will include weed/vegetation control, primarily through mowing. Weed control is critical to solar projects as weeds can impede maintenance access and cause reduced generation from shading. Some spot application of pesticides may be needed, but the use of pesticides will be minimal; significantly less than that used for typical farming practices. Where possible, pollinator friendly grasses may be considered. There are even vegetation options that include herbivore-friendly species such as alfalfa (depending on local restrictions).
Solar panels do not consist of any liquids; therefore, if one were to be damaged, there would be no risk of contaminants spilling on the ground. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s established tests demonstrate that solar modules do not leach toxins into the environment.
For optimal power generation, solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight, not reflect it. Glint/glare studies can be performed to assess potential impact. It is increasingly common for airports to install solar arrays for power generation without experiencing glare issues, further demonstrating the compatibility of solar with other uses.
There are no proven health risks from solar fields. In fact, solar panels can be found across the globe, as they are increasingly installed directly on homes and businesses alike due to the financial and environmental benefits they provide.
Solar is also known for having a positive benefit on air quality. Solar generates clean, renewable power with zero air emissions, and can supplement or replace less-efficient fossil fuel-based sources of power. A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that this corresponds to a lower risk of respiratory issues and heart attacks in communities with better air quality.
Solar farms have an expected 35-year life, much of which is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Solar panels can continue to produce energy past their warranty, though efficiencies may decrease. Once the panels are no longer efficient, the solar farm will be dismantled, upgraded or repowered, depending on terms of the land agreement, power needs and other market forces.
We have voluntary agreements with landowners for the life of the solar farm that dictate the terms of both operations and removal of the project. All facilities are removed from the land and returned to the landowner after 35-years, at which time it can be returned to farmland or other previous use. Solar provides a great opportunity for owners to create an additional source of income on their land, while preserving its underlying use.
A decommissioning plan and cost estimate will be in place with the County prior to the start of construction. In some cases, a letter of credit or bond is put in place to ensure the availability of decommissioning funds. Per the County ordinance, the decommissioning plan will be re-evaluated every 10 years.
Energy buyers, from retail consumers to commercial businesses are increasingly demanding carbon-free power for environmental as well as economic reasons. Solar is an economical source of renewable energy. Utilities and grid operators such as MISO account for solar’s intermittency (it generates during daylight hours) when planning how to dispatch their generation resources. Solar pairs well with other generation sources than can be dispatched on demand to create a more diversified energy mix.