Photovoltaic Farms

A photovoltaic power plant with fixed solar panels. (Source: © lapis2380 / stock.adobe.com)

A photovoltaic power plant with fixed solar panels.

Photovoltaic Farms (PV farms) produce electric energy directly from falling sunlight in a large number of solar panels. Since the average energy production density in modern commercial installations reaches only about 140 Watts per square meter, huge areas are covered by PV farms. The majority of PV farms use simple and sturdy support structures which hold the panels in a fixed position. Installing tracking systems at a large PV farm would increase construction and maintenance costs significantly taking away much of the gain from increased efficiency. Solar panels generate direct current. The farms therefore have to have inverters and transformers to match the frequency and voltage of the grid.

A field of photovoltaic solar panels with reflective surfaces that increase their efficiency. (Source: © Darren Baker / stock.adobe.com)

A field of photovoltaic solar panels with reflective surfaces that increase their efficiency.

Depending on the installed capacity, PV systems are divided into small systems producing several to tens of kilowatts, and large farms, with an installed capacity in the region of megawatts. Today, the installed capacities of large PV farms are close to 100 MW. In 2012, a 290 MW PV farm, the Agua Caliente Solar Project (map) in Arizona, should be commissioned. Basically all the large PV plants are connected to the grid. However, there are systems that are standalone. These are called island PV systems. In such cases, all of the production is stored in batteries for later use. Island PV systems are typically used in remote places with no access to the grid.

PV systems are being developed in Europe, predominantly in countries like Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Other countries that develop them include the USA, Japan and Australia.

A 1,000 MW PV farm would require an area of approximately 50 km2. A conventional thermal fossil power plant of the same capacity only requires 2.5 km2.

The Largest Photovoltaic Farms in the World

Name Place Location Output
Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station Italy 84.2 MW
Finsterwalde Solar Park Germany 80.7 MW
Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant Canada 80 MW
Rovigo Photovoltaic Power Plant Italy 70 MW
Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park Spain 60 MW
Strasskirchen Solar Park Germany 54 MW
Lieberose Photovoltaic Park Germany 53 MW
Puertollano Photovoltaic Park Spain 50 M

Large photovoltaic solar power plants can have hundreds of rows. (Source: © view7 / stock.adobe.com)
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Solar panels of a photovoltaic power plant mounted to a supporting structure, which allows them to track the apparent movement of the Sun. (Source: © pedrosala / stock.adobe.com)
All photovoltaic power plants are fitted with inverters in order to allow them to be connected to the grid. (Source: © romaset / stock.adobe.com)
Solar power plants are starting to take up significant areas of agricultural soil. (Source: © cre250 / stock.adobe.com)
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