Frequently asked questions about solar farms

Aerial image of a solar farm with labels answering frequently asked questions

Solar farm basics: What, why and how?

Solar farms generate enough home-grown electricity to power thousands of homes, with no carbon emissions, for healthier air. Solar helps diversify our country’s energy mix, adding resilience and security to America’s energy infrastructure, reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources while driving down electricity costs. 

In solar farms, rows of solar panels produce electricity, which flows into the local electric grid, exactly the same as a fossil fuel electric plant – powering places like homes, businesses, schools and hospitals.  

Solar panels are mounted on racking that sits on posts – those posts take up less than 5% of the land. This leaves significant open space under the panels, in the rows and in buffer areas to plant site-specific grasses and other vegetation with a goal of increasing biodiversity in the first 5 years of operation. We also integrate agriculture where practicable.  

The racking is equipped with smart solar trackers that slowly and quietly rotate throughout the day, following the sun to maximize solar energy production. These smart trackers serve other important purposes, too – they help protect solar panels from hailstorms, high winds, and buildup of snow on solar panels.  

To learn more about solar energy, please visit the resources below, or contact USCommunityRelations@lightsourcebp.com to get in touch directly.  

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General solar questions

  • Does anything grow underneath the solar panels?

    Yes. Plants grow very well on solar farms. In fact, vegetation grows across more than 90% of the land on a solar farm. There is primarily grass under and between the solar panels, along with wildflowers.

    Solar panels are mounted on racking that sits on posts – those posts take up less than 5% of the land. The rows of solar panels, from post to post, east to west, are typically 20 to 25 feet apart.  This leaves significant open space under the panels, in the rows and in buffer areas to plant site-specific grasses and other vegetation with a goal of increasing net biodiversity gain in the first 5 years of operation.

    Resource: Biodiversity & habitat conservation at solar farms 

  • What is the height of solar panels on a solar farm?

    Solar panels are installed on racking with smart solar trackers that follow the sun during the day. As the panels very slowly rotate east to west during the day, the height ranges from 4 feet to 10 feet, reaching a maximum height similar to a field of corn.

  • What is the carbon footprint of solar?

    A carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a product or activity generates over its lifecycle. For solar, this includes material manufacturing, construction, dismantling and recycling. Unlike traditional energy sources, generating electricity with solar is emissions-free.

    According to a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), photovoltaic solar energy projects have a lifecycle emissions footprint 95% lower than a coal fired power plant – or said differently, coal fired electricity generation has over 20x the greenhouse gas emissions of solar. And natural gas generation has over 10x the emissions over the full lifecycle.

    Resource: NREL Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Electricity Generation

  • What’s the benefit to the community if we’re not the direct recipients of the electricity?

    All solar projects collectively help decarbonize our country’s electric grid, lower our country’s overall electricity costs, and contribute to our nation’s energy independence and security.

    There are many end users of the electricity that flows from our nation’s electric grids, including both residential customers and business customers. This is true for electricity generated by fossil fuel plants as well as large-scale solar projects. The electricity from our solar farms flows into the local electric grid, exactly the same as a fossil fuel electric plant. A good analogy is water in a pipe. The electricity from a solar farm goes into the “water pipe” and mixes with electricity from other sources. Sometimes the electricity is indeed “earmarked” for a business customer, but at the end of the day whomever “opens their faucet” gets a mix of electricity from different sources.

    As that “mix” includes more and more solar generated electricity, what will happen is that (1) our overall carbon footprint will reduce and (2) electricity costs for everyone will come down. Renewable energy has proven to be the cheapest source of power, worldwide.

    Resource: World Energy Outlook Report

  • I am interested in leasing land for solar. How can I get in touch?

    With thousands of acres under management, Lightsource bp is increasingly North America’s trusted partner for solar land leases that deliver secure, long-term income to landowners. Our approach to landowner partnerships stems from our deep knowledge of the rural economy. We sit down with you to understand your goals and requirements for your land and to explore whether ‘solar as a crop’ is right for you. And we consider closely the needs of the surrounding community and environment.  

    If you’re interested in partnering on a solar project where you own the land, get in touch using this form. If there is potential to host a renewable energy project on the land, we will reach out to you. 

Health and Safety

  • Do solar panels release toxic chemicals?

    The layers of a solar panel are strongly laminated, and all materials are sealed inside tempered glass, the same material as car windshields and hurricane windows. In addition, Lightsource bp requires all solar panels used on our projects to pass strict testing protocols established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that solar panels, even if broken, do not release harmful amounts of any hazardous materials into the environment. The EPA testing protocol is called the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP).

  • Will solar panel waste end up in a landfill in my area?

    Lightsource bp is committed to recycling solar panels on all our solar farms in the U.S. versus disposing in a landfill. That includes any panels damaged during construction, operations, and all panels at the end of life/decommissioning. In addition, we exclusively use recycling facilities that are vetted by SEIA (the Solar Energy Industry Association) – to ensure that the panels will be processed at the most environmentally responsible U.S. facilities that strive for maximum material recovery.

    ResourceLightsource bp Recycling and Lifecycle Management


  • Is EMF from solar farms a concern?

    EMF from solar is no more impactful than EMF from home appliances. Solar panels themselves generate electricity in DC current, so there is no detectable EMF, and several studies have measured EMF at the perimeter of a solar facility to be negligible.

    In fact, we are all exposed to EMF throughout our daily lives. All electric lines and equipment, including the lines to homes, businesses and home appliances, create EMF. Since the 1970s, some have expressed concern over potential health consequences of EMF from electricity, but no studies have ever shown this EMF to cause health problems.

    Resource: NC Cleantech “Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics (page 14)

  • Do solar farms produce noise?

    Sound at the solar project will be limited to inverters and the transformer, which cannot be heard past the project boundaries. In addition, Lightsource bp will adhere to any local regulations about noise levels and will conduct sound modeling to confirm our projects meet these requirements.

  • Do solar farms increase local temperatures?

    A study from the University of Maryland shows that any heat created by a solar farm is much smaller than what is created by urban areas, dissipates quickly and can’t be measured 100 feet away. Lightsource bp also plants ground cover, which provides a cooling effect, and as referenced in the study, mitigates temperature increases.  Additionally, there was a recent study by Lancaster University, Ludong University in China, and the University of California Davis in 2021, which used satellite technologies to discover that large scale solar parks can have a cooling effect on the land surrounding them.


    Study: Ground-mounted photovoltaic solar parks promote land surface cool islands in arid ecosystems 


    Resource: University of Maryland Study

  • Do solar farms create glare?

    Solar panels are designed to absorb, not reflect, sunlight and reflect less light than glass or water. Regardless, when required by the FAA, a study will be completed to confirm that there will be no interference with aircraft.

  • Are solar farms water intensive?

    Due to precipitation during operations, cleaning may never be needed for the life of the project. For the operations and maintenance building or other minimal on-site use, the project would either connect to an on-site water source through appropriate local permits or bring in water.

Solar farms & weather

  • Does solar work on cloudy days?

    Yes. Even on cloudy days, light energy from the sun reaches the earth’s surface. Solar panels still convert that into electricity, though they may not work at peak efficiency.

  • Does solar work in the winter and cold weather?

    Yes. Solar panels generate electricity year round, even on the shortest or coldest days. Electrical equipment (including solar panels) actually works more efficiently in cold weather.

  • How does solar work in the snow?

    Solar farms are designed to mitigate buildup of snow on the solar panels. Solar panels are installed on smart trackers that follow the sun from east to west during the day, to maximize solar energy production. These smart trackers serve other important purposes, too – they protect solar panels from hailstorms, and they prevent buildup of snow on solar panels.

    Resource: Withstanding extreme weather on solar farms

  • How do you protect solar panels from hail damage?

    Lightsource bp has developed and launched a comprehensive hail mitigation program for its projects in the United States.

    Solar trackers slowly tilt photovoltaic (PV) solar panels east-to-west to follow the sun each day as it moves across the sky, significantly increasing a solar panel’s exposure to direct sunlight and therefore, PV power generation. Lightsource bp uses this same functionality to rapidly redeploy the trackers to a higher tilt angle to deflect hail and mitigate damage.

    Lightsource bp has paired this tracker technology with real-time weather insights and proactive alerts to ensure solar panels enter full mitigation mode before a hail strike. Working with a third-party weather service provider, we are implementing algorithms that provide hail warnings up to 30 minutes in advance of public National Weather Service alerts, which will ultimately enable us to fully automate the mitigation process end-to-end.

    Resource: Withstanding extreme weather on solar farms

Land use and soil protection

  • Are we losing land to solar?

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar PV panels on just 22,000 square miles of the nation’s total land area – about the size of Lake Michigan – could supply enough electricity to power the entire United States.

    Solar farms temporarily set aside land and protect it from permanent loss due to industrialization and urbanization – and that they afford a myriad of opportunities to layer on the benefits of solar since the land under and around the panels is protected for decades. As part of our Responsible Solar approach, Lightsource bp designs and implements site-specific Land Management and Biodiversity Plans to achieve biodiversity net gains, foster habitats, improve soil health, and support agrivoltaics.

    Resource: Environmental Research Letters

    Resource: Solar Energy in the United States (Solar Energy Technologies Office)

  • Why build solar on farmland?

    There are several reasons why farmland is ideal for solar projects:

    • Farmland is previously disturbed land, meaning the impacts of solar on the land are greatly minimized.
    • Solar protects farmland in the long term from urban sprawl or industrialization. According to the American Farmland Trust, America loses 2,000 acres of farmland to low-density, inefficient urban sprawl each day.  This kind of development is permanent, unlike solar. Once land is used for urban development, it cannot be converted back to farmland.
    • Leasing a portion of their land for solar provides revenue for landowners and generations of their families, contributing to the economics of their farming business – providing a steady stream of income that enables them to keep the land during hard economic times. And in the future the land can be returned to farming.
    • Roughly 40% of all corn grown in the US is used to generate energy in the form of ethanol and not used for feeding people. This represents approximately 40 million acres (1.6% of the nation’s land). If this land were repurposed with solar power, it could provide around three and a half times the electricity needs of the United States.
    • With agrivoltaics, the land can remain in agricultural production during the life of the solar project.

    Resource: Farmland Trust

    Resource: USDA

    Resource: How Corn Ethanol for Biofuel Fed Climate Change

    Resource: Solar+food in ethanol fields could fully power the United States

    Resource: Raising sheep on solar farms

  • How does solar help farmers?

    Leasing land for solar development creates a host of benefits for family farms. Financially, rental income creates a predictable long-term revenue stream that allows family farms to finance growth and plan for succession, keeping land in the family for generations.

    Solar can also improve and preserve the health of the land for future agriculture. Over the life of a project:

    • Soil will be protected from erosion with stable groundcover underneath and around the solar panels – and no intensive tillage for decades.
    • Far fewer chemicals will be utilized than when farming.
    • Practices such as grazing and pollinator plantings will increase biomass production, nitrogen content, soil carbon storage and soil moisture.
    • “Resting” the ground can return it to a better condition at the end of the project’s useful life, similar to fallowed parcels under USDAs Conservation Reserve Program.

    Solar energy is also critical to mitigating the detrimental effects that climate change is having on America’s farmland. A Stanford University study says climate change has caused a 21 percent drop in potential farm productivity over the last 60 years.

    Resource: Our commitment to biodiversity

    Resource: Solar land leasing 

    Resource: Stanford University: Climate change has hurt farm productivity

    Resource: Stanford University: Global warming increased U.S. crop insurance losses by $27 billion in 27 years

  • How will stormwater runoff be managed on the solar farm?

    As part of our land management best practices, Lightsource works to seed our sites prior to start of construction, often in partnership with local farmers or landowners. The practice of early seeding assists with soil and vegetation stabilization, along with weed suppression and stormwater management, prior to and during construction.

    Post construction, for the life of the project, Lightsource bp creates vegetation plans that establish healthy groundcover that aids in holding stormwater and reducing erosion. In fact, our solar farms can reduce sediment runoff by converting tilled row crop acreage to permanent vegetation under and around the solar panels that help retain water.

    Additionally, Lightsource bp is required by law to develop and comply with a comprehensive stormwater plan for each of our projects, often called a “Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan” (SWPPP). The SWPPP must include measures to control erosion and sedimentation. These plans are regulated by the Federal Clean Water Act and administered and enforced by state and/or local agencies.

  • How do solar farms affect wildlife?

    Solar farms inherently lend themselves to habitat enhancement and conservation initiatives– studies have shown solar farms can majorly increase biodiversity on previously disturbed land in just a few years with the use of pollinator-friendly seed mixes.

    We carefully curate customized seed mixes and other vegetation so that our solar farms can serve as safe, supportive homes for beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife under our biodiversity framework. We actively monitor and measure net biodiversity gain based on scoring systems developed by international conservation groups.

  • How will bird habitats in the area be protected?

    We develop solar projects in a manner that conserves important habitats and species. As a company, we’ve been building solar farms with the aim to increase local biodiversity since 2010. Our solar farms include landscaping to minimize visual impacts from roads and homes, often adding thousands of new trees to the neighborhood that also become home to local bird species. The study listed below, which includes several of Lightsource bp’s solar farms in the UK, shows an increase in biodiversity as well as bird species and abundance of birds at solar PV farms.

    Resource: Solar Farms Biodiversity Study

Property Values

  • Do solar farms impact nearby property value?

    Multiple analyses examining property value in states across the country have demonstrated that large-scale solar arrays in rural settings have no measurable impact on the value of adjacent properties, and in some cases may even have positive effects. Proximity to solar farms have been proven to not deter the sales of agricultural or residential land. Large solar projects have similar visual characteristics to a greenhouse or single-story barn and are often augmented by landscaping to minimize visual impacts. Studies such as the 2018 Cohn Reznick Property Value Impact Study have shown that no consistent negative impacts occur to the value of properties adjacent to solar farms. These conclusions are confirmed by numerous county assessors who saw firsthand the lack of impacts in their respective counties.

    Resource: Cohn Reznick Property Value Impact Study 2018

    Resource: SEIA Property Value Fact Sheet


  • How will decommissioning of the solar farm work?

    Lightsource bp submits a full decommissioning plan for a solar project. The plan ensures that the project will be dismantled, removed and recycled at the end of its life and that the land can return to agricultural activities or another use as landowners decide.

    Steps to achieve this include:

    • Removal of primary components of the facility; including modules, trackers, foundations, steel piles, and electric cabling and conduit installed below soil surface as dictated by the local jurisdiction or laws
    • Removal of internal access roads unless requested to be left in place by landowner
    • Repair of public roads damaged or modified during decommissioning/reclamation process and in compliance with applicable road use agreements
    • Restoration and revegetation of any disturbed land
  • Can solar panels be recycled?

    Lightsource bp is committed to recycling solar panels on all our solar farms in the U.S. versus disposing in a landfill. That includes any panels damaged during construction, operations, and all panels at the end of life/decommissioning. In addition, we exclusively use recycling facilities that are vetted by SEIA (the Solar Energy Industry Association) – to ensure that the panels will be processed at the most environmentally responsible U.S. facilities that strive for maximum material recovery. 

    Resource: Our commitment to solar panel recycling and safety 

  • Who pays for decommissioning?

    The costs of decommissioning do not fall upon the community or landowners, rather they are the responsibility of the project owner. While costs vary by region and project size, third party engineering estimates forecast a negative cost of project decommissioning. This is because the salvage value of modules, PV racking, steel posts and copper wiring can exceed the costs of equipment removal and land restoration.

Technical Questions

  • How do solar farms affect grid power quality?

    Utility scale solar farms can actually help improve grid power quality in several ways.

    • Various protection devices are used that serve to regulate voltage and maintain frequency with the power grid to preserve clean sine wave injection.
    • Utility scale solar farms are distributed energy resources, most of which provide reactive power to support grid stability. We work closely with grid operators to deliver reactive power where and when it’s needed,  helping to regulate voltage levels so the grid can work more efficiently.
    • Solar projects can be strategically located to reduce loading on transmission lines that are nearing capacity, saving costs by deferring or ultimately cancelling the requirement for costly infrastructure upgrades.