Without the right tools and technology in place, siting locations for new utility-scale solar projects may become increasingly difficult as renewable energy installations continue to grow as forecast.

In an ideal situation, PV power plant developers can identify a large expanse of flat, open land with access to transmission lines and no environmental concerns or backlash from local residents. Unfortunately, the ideal situation rarely, if ever, presents itself.

Now, solar EPCs and developers must identify spots they would have considered undevelopable just a few years ago, such as complex terrains. However, sites atop hilly or sloping land can cause inter-row shading. This shading can lead to poor system performance, less power generated than projected, and significant loss of revenue.

Thankfully, PV plant owners can recover most losses using advanced system design and control strategies. To accomplish this, EPCs and developers need a smart utility-scale solution like TrinaPro to deal with these siting issues and ensure optimized power generation. 

3 Big Land-Use Obstacles for Utility Solar Siting

1. Growing demand for renewable energy

Across the country, more than 800 utility-scale solar projects are under contract to generate nearly 70,000 MW of new capacity, enough to power more than 11 million homes, equivalent to Texas and then some.

With utility-scale solar already surpassing records for new capacity additions and the pipeline expecting even greater growth in the coming years, the availability of prime land parcels will continue to dwindle. 

2. Environmental concerns

A utility-scale PV power plant's siting, permitting, and approval processes can take several years to complete, even in the best of circumstances. 

But as developers and EPCs must increasingly turn to other potential sites, they're now facing greater pressures from environmental advocates who can tie up solar projects in regulatory reviews or court for years.

The objections arise from a desire to keep the land unspoiled to protect endangered species and other wildlife habitats. In one such recent example, a coalition of environmental groups is opposing a 690 MW solar plant a few miles outside of Las Vegas because it's planned for prime desert tortoise habitat.

As a partner in building a sustainable and renewable future, the appropriate parties must consider all environmental concerns for any solar project, including introducing mitigations to protect resources and habitats, if necessary.

3. NIMBY backlash

In addition to environmental groups, local residents also voice their displeasure and attempt to halt proposals for utility-scale projects close to their homes. These "not-in-my-backyard" (aka NIMBY) groups have also become a more vocal opponent of large solar installations.

Many of these individuals favor transitioning to renewable energy, yet they still stand in the way of potential utility solar plants in their area. Often, they voice concerns that their views would no longer be as beautiful or scenic or that the new installation will spoil the locale's charm and character.

For example, a new survey of New York State conducted by Cornell shows public support for huge utility-scale solar farms is much lower than support for smaller solar projects. In another recent example, residents of a Texas town all showed up for public comments regarding a proposal for a utility-scale solar farm. Residents took the floor to speak against the proposal, while nobody spoke in favor of it.

It might not sound like a big deal, but when the entire community gathers to partake in a permitting or zoning hearing at the monthly town hall meeting, the support – or lack thereof – from local residents can be a make-or-break decision.

TrinaPro Allows for More Creative Land Use 

As easily accessible, undeveloped land close to populated areas becomes more difficult to find, utility-scale solar project developers and EPC firms will need to get more creative in land use. While complex terrain and application scenarios create higher product adaptability and reliability requirements, it's not impossible to design a PV system for these sites that still generate high power output without such high losses.

These land-use limitations now mean that developers must adequately address project near shading and topographic losses early in the design process or face an increased risk of project underperformance and revenue loss later on.

TrinaPro is the smart utility solar solution needed to design customized PV site schemes for multiple landscapes, regardless of the terrain. TrinaPro's innovative bundling of major components ensures optimized compatibility design of module, inverter, and tracker.

In the case of complex terrain, an intelligent tracking algorithm and advanced technological design work as a game-changer. TrinaTracker uses an intelligent tracking algorithm and a patented ball-bearing technology that constantly self-adjusts. These features allow the entire PV system to adapt to different slopes and hills to avoid front-and-back shadow masking. Additionally, smart backtracking guarantees higher system reliability, increasing power generation by up to 2.7%.

The TrinaTracker technology boosts reliability and power generation, and its sophisticated design allows for faster installation and better cable optimization to help further reduce LCOE. A detailed breakdown and comparison of CAPEX reveal savings arise from a significant decrease in costs, particularly for electrical cables, tracker installation, and transportation.

When it comes to complex terrain, TrinaPro has the solution. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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