Solar Farms: The Conservation Question

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At Optimus Solar, we field a lot of questions about the solar industry. One question we hear often is “what is your take on the expansion of solar farms in Florida?” While that’s quite open-ended, it is intellectually interesting and practically applicable to consider the implications of land use, power production, power consumption, and conservation. So, what do we think about solar farms?  

We first like to emphasize that Optimus Solar is committed to the sustainability of our communities, Florida, the US and the world through conservation of lands critical to our well-being, clean air and natural beauty.  In fact, we donate a portion of every solar job to Conservation Florida, a quality organization dedicated to the conservation of Florida lands.

When talking about solar farms, land conservation and land use are naturally at the center of the discussion. Land in Florida is still relatively inexpensive. Utilities are able to purchase large swaths to build massive solar farms. Just last year, Florida Power and Light (FPL) purchased nearly 1300 acres outside of Palm Beach for a new solar farm. FPL currently has 14 solar plants, generating 930 megawatts of electricity. Their aim is to produce 4,000 megawatts over the next decade. That’s going to require a lot of land. 

This is great in terms of adding clean renewable power to the grid while also reducing the need for land reserved for fuel pipelines and nuclear waste storage. However, when one looks at what can be achieved with our current footprint and infrastructure, and the negative impacts large solar farms have on land conservation, the answer to the question becomes more complicated.  If preservation of forested land is one of our goals, then solar farms may not be the best answer. 

Forbes recently released an article showing the power of rooftop solar potential in the US, as well as Florida, specifically. There is enough currently-built, solar-eligible rooftop space to provide 75% of all residential power consumption. This is a powerful statistic. Using what we already have, on the same footprint we already occupy, we can functionally produce ¾ of the power we consume.  

Of course, this requires capital, investment, entrepreneurial spirit and effort, but so does importing things such as natural gas, nuclear raw materials, petroleum, etc.  As vehicles rapidly transition to electric, it will also become necessary to produce more power to fuel these vehicles, with solar being the natural option given its production as close to the source of consumption as possible. Rooftop solar makes the most sense when looking at the big picture. If our goal is to preserve the ecological benefits of renewable energy sources, rooftop solar beats out solar farms, plain and simple.