Solar panels and nature

That is what a lot people do not understand about solar farms. While it may be beneficial to have them ultimately the amount of acreage required for large solar farms is just too much. So are they better than fossil fuels, which takes a lot less space? Of course this thread is an entirely different subject my apologies. https://katv.com/news/local/largest-solar-farm-in-arkansas-ready-for-use
475 acres for 13,000 homes?

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Why not put the solar panels, on the buildings that need the power.
Why must it be a solar ‘power station’ but on ‘waste’ land.

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We’ll have to split off another thread for this.

475 acres is small by NM standards. There’s a 2,600 acre project near Shiprock that I’m visiting next year to look for more cactus. Some places clear and grub completely and others only do the minimum for access roads and installation.

To Diana’s point about buildings, commercial roofs are often cluttered with HVAC equipment or not flat enough for large arrays. Residential solar is not affordable for everyone. Parking lot shade structures should be used more. Large solar farms can be tied into the grid directly and planned across the grid to replace fossil fuel power plants.

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I agree with that. Def should utilize smaller spaces. Roofs are already there so solar panels should be up there. Of course @egordon88 your point is correct too. The roofs (at least the smaller ones) are typically cluttered.

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Basically, what I was saying is there has to be a better way. I just don’t feel like solar farms are the “answer”, fossil fuels aren’t either.

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It works for us in Cape Town. The shopping malls are changing to solar one by one.

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Solar technology is rapidly increasing in sophistication. Soon we won’t even need panels, and we will paint buildings with photovoltaic paint. But the current problem with renewables is that our technology for producing energy exceeds our technology for storing it. So we really should be investing more in that.

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I smile every time I see a parking lot shaded by solar panels. So many benefits multiplied; so much more untapped potential. Brilliant. Probably much less expensive per square meter (and many more square meters available) than putting them on buildings, though of course we should be doing that too.

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Today our solar powered electric car saw a company car - solar powered for a solar installation company.

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there are pros and cons for every kind of electricity generation. really, the best thing is for people to just use less energy, but that’s not easy to convince people to do.

just for reference, as best as i can tell, this is what the site looks like (in the bottom right) next to the city of Stuttgart (top left), which has a population of ~8000 people and covers 7.4 sq mi (almost exactly 10x the size of the solar farm):

when i look around the map, i do see a few isolated patches of natural land, but where the land appears to no longer be natural, it doesn’t look to me like the main cause is a solar farm.

when i was in Arkansas last, i went through the Walmart museum in downtown Bentonville. when the greeter there found out i was from Houston, he noted in a laughing way that all of Arkansas has just 3 million people. (the Houston metro area has more than that.)

for many decades, there have been promises of films and paints that will soon replace panels. problem is that any film or paint that i’m aware of suffers from durability and toxicity problems. (in the case of most promising modern paints, they pose a lead / heavy metal hazard.)

silicon-based photovoltaic panels are still the gold standard for PV solar for the foreseeable future, as far as i can tell. you could have argued in the past that the energy needed to process the silicon to make the panels was super polluting, but now that more and more of that energy is coming from friendlier energy sources, including solar (in a virtuous cycle), that’s less and less of a concern.

while true, generally, i’m not sure that i would smile about most parking lots.

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I saw somewhere (a news report?) where someplace is putting them on tall pillars above water. The water can still be used underneath and it’s not taking up additional land. Wish I could remember where I saw that.

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Here’s one article:
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/solar-panels-built-over-water-canals-seem-like-a-no-brainer-so-why-arent-they-widespread

Sounds like another benefit is that there is less evaporation of the water underneath.

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The first time I saw solar panels installed over a parking lot (with shade cloth also) – at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada – I thought it was brilliant. Especially since it was over 100 degrees that day so any shade was a huge plus.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartwildlife/2760960352

Since then, I’ve seen them installed elsewhere in the US Southwest and it really makes a parking lot a cooler place in summer. Plus, of course, the power generated with no loss of undisturbed land.

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Ethanol is pretty much the worst of all options.

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When I was on Maui recently, I noticed almost all the houses in several neighborhoods had solar panels on their roofs and not all panels were oriented south (presumably because of the latitude where the islands are located?). I don’t know what subsidy program made that possible but this struck me as a great development. Of course, everything is more expensive in Hawaii (except home heating, I suppose) including power so maybe this is something that has a better cost:benefit ratio there.

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A bit wary of the effect on wildlife like waterbirds?
I wonder how effective the less evaporation is?
Remember the black balls ?

My parents still live on O’ahu and they installed solar a while ago. I think the main reason is that electricity is just so expensive, and solar makes a lot of sense there due to the climate. There might be some subsidies involved but I think you’re correct that the core motivation is the cost of electricity.

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The issue isn’t solar taking up too much space, it is that the current system is bad and doesn’t incentivize the correct space being used. With rooftops, in yards, parking lots, covering aqueducts and reservoirs, reclaimed polluted sites, certain pastures, etc, we could fulful a LOT of our energy needs with solar. Cutting down forest or filling wetlands to put in solar is REALLY counterproductive since that negates much or all of the climate benefit, and ruining desert ecosystems, grassland, etc or displacing important agriculture for solar are bad choice as well. Remote solar farms also lose a lot of power in transmission.

is ironic because deserts aren’t ‘ecological deserts’ at all. I really dislike that use of the word. A lot of really high biodiversity desert sites have been ruined by poorly cited solar. That being said, the mowing point is a really good one. I was part of a study that looked at whether solar farms caused more or less impact than haying in wet fields. The answer entirely depended on how the land was managed. Solar panels are often compatible with pollinator meadows and prairie grasses, if not trees, bogs, or certain desert habitats. But if you manage it as a lawn or pave it, it’s a lot worse. Another neat option i’ve seen in places like barnyards where solar panels can provide shade for livestock. There are lots of good options, but we have to be smart about it instead of letting certain corporations incentivize harmful things instead.

The same thing is true for wind. There are good, bad, and awful sites for wind power. Microhydro also sometimes has neat applications but large scale dams are often very harmful e cologically and surprisingly poor on the climate front, since they take a massive amount of CO2 to make the concrete, extensive forest, wetlands, or farm fields are often flooded, and most reservoirs only last 50-200 years. So, large scal ehydro is not as good as it seems. I personally think we should also be using more nuclear power (in a smart way of course, and not the awful huge meltdowny, waste forming methods that have gotten us in trouble). But of course that is controversial and a whole other issue.

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Amen! Say it again for the folks in the back.

The site I’ve been rescuing cactus from has more plant diversity than most gardens here (no surprise). I think solar is a better land use than grazing in New Mexico, provided there’s effective management (reseeding and weeding). I also think the renewable transition is too little too late, but that’s for another discussion.

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Strange that people manage to avoid walls and structural pillars in parking garages at the mall or the office

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