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Solar farms Vs Rooftop solar – how do the scales tilt?

Exploring the two key avenues to powering a home or business with the power of the sun.

With the growing awareness of renewable energy and a new consciousness towards going green, there is a major rise in people opting for solar energy – an inexhaustible and natural source of energy.

While there are many ways to use the power of the sun, two of the popular ways to use solar power are through rooftop solar panels, that is arrays installed on the rooftops of buildings, or solar panels installed on towers at large solar farms. 

Each method is unique and has its own benefits. Let’s see how each of these works. 

What is a solar farm?

A solar farm is a photovoltaic power station, also commonly referred to as a solar park or solar power plant. The photovoltaic panels installed at the farm absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. A large-scale operation, the extensive photovoltaic system here supplies merchant power into the electricity grid, becoming a part of the electricity provider’s energy mix.  Basically, they function as any other power plant which generates electricity for the consumer. Solar farms contain ground-mounted solar panels that come in various shapes and sizes. 

There are mainly two types of solar farms: 

  1. Utility-scale solar farms have hundreds and thousands of solar panels to harness energy from the sun, and the current generated is then distributed on high voltage power lines. The power reaches the electricity grid, finally lighting up your homes. 
  2. Community solar farms are comparatively smaller facilities and provide power to local communities. The beneficiaries are those who have opted to be a part of the solar programme. Participating parties may benefit from reduced utility bill, but that depends on how much electricity is generated and the number of people in the programme. 

What is a rooftop solar system?

As the name suggests, this system consists of solar panels installed by individual home or business owners on their rooftops to generate solar power meant only for their own consumption. Usually, rooftop solar users will have surplus power which is routed into the utility grid for the use of other neighbouring units. They have two energy meters – one to measure the energy generated and another to measure the consumption. Homeowners with rooftop panels are paid for the surplus energy, bringing down their energy cost and keeping them self-sufficient when it comes to their energy needs. It cuts down their dependency on the energy providers.   

How the two compare: 

The aim for both; solar farms and solar rooftops is to produce renewable energy. Both these systems bring you clean and green energy and reduce your dependency on pollution causing fossil fuels. 

Rooftop Solar

> Space constraints: Residents must have a suitable space – a rooftop with good access to sunlight and with minimum shade – to install rooftop panels. 

> Ownership and maintenance: The onus of installation cost and maintenance of the panels falls on the homeowners. 

> The look: Some people are also concerned about the aesthetic change to their personal spaces due to the installation of the photovoltaic panels. 

Solar Farms

> Land availability: The one disadvantage of solar farms is the need for large expanses of land, which could be utilised for activities like agriculture or other infrastructure projects as opposed to rooftop panels, which require exactly just that, a rooftop!

> Maintenance: The maintenance is taken care of by the stakeholder and users can avail of energy by renting/ hiring or subscribing to the energy produced at the solar farm without bothering about the nitty-gritties. 

Despite the pros and cons of both solar systems, the fact remains that both ensure clean energy, help you do your bit for the environment and save on energy expenses. 

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