Solar Farms Pros and Cons: 7 Facts We Can’t Deny

In struggling with the economy of energy, consumers and policy makers end up with two options: make more or use less. While conservation is a popular idea, it is a practical challenge to a significant degree. So dependent are developed cultures on automation that restraint of power usage is likely only achievable around the edges of people’s lives. Renewable energy better appeals to this plugged-in society. Solar farms are attractive to many, but are not without shortcomings.

Solar Farms Pros

Solar farm in China

World’s largest floating PV power plant, China.

Environmentally Friendly

Solar farms are large-scale collections of PV (photovoltaic) panels spread over one to 100 acres of land. Capturing the sun’s energy to generate electricity, they feed into local and regional power grids regulated by public utilities. In and of themselves, they release no harmful atmospheric emissions. This is good news for the climate and for everyone who breathes. As a consequence, less fossil fuels are burned, further enhancing the atmosphere’s envelope.

Neither does solar power pollute water or land. Non-renewable fuels like petroleum are sometimes spilled or leaked. This has devastating effects on the soil, on plant life and on animal populations. No such widespread damage is ever linked to solar farms or PV panels. In fact, PV systems have long energized calculators and timepieces with little ill effect.


Regular consumers of electricity like to know that its power source will be available, not only today, but well into the future. One major weakness of depending on geological resources is the time it takes for them to replenish. Some scientists speculate that it could be over 100,000 years for a gallon of petroleum to do so. On the positive side of solar farms pros and cons is that sunshine renews itself almost every day.

Unless the earth stops revolving around its star, we have a continuous source of power with the help of solar farms. Many universities and research institutions, in fact, are incorporating solar farms to help power their own campuses. Combined with wind and hydro-electric generation, these institutions are now minimizing their use of fossil fuels and optimizing renewable—and sustainable—supplies.


Any evaluation of solar farms pros and cons is incomplete without studying noise pollution. Drills make noise, and so do pumps. Most every process related to fossil fuel production is loud. Interestingly, an attempt to study and analyze whale communication in 2013 had to be aborted due to the undersea commotion generated by offshore drilling. Gas compressors are among the raucous culprits.

By contrast, solar farms emit at worst a low hum. This sound is made when the direct current apprehended by the PV panels is converted to alternating current to be received by the grid. It is so low, in fact, that one can only hear it if there is near-silence outside the solar farm’s boundaries.

Low Maintenance

solar panels

When we talk of solar farms pros and cons, we need to explain the terminology. They are not “farms” in the sense that people grow crops or raise animals. The PV modules capture energy from the sun and produce electricity. Once in place, the modules need little maintenance or upkeep. Other than a semi-annual cleaning, these units can operate for over two decades without so much as a tune-up.

Again, this fact stands in stark relief against the equipment related to petroleum or natural gas withdrawal. What is more, the minimal care for solar panels stacks up well against wind turbines, another renewable energy rock star. Once the modules are up and running, there is little else to do. A crop or livestock farmer can only dream of a day without intensive labor.

Solar Farms Cons

Intermittent Availability

Yes, the sun will always be there (for the foreseeable future, anyway). However, clouds get in the way, not to mention a pesky little annoyance called night time. This lack of constant access makes greater reliance on solar energy a challenge. Other renewable sources—wind power, again—are also intermittent, even more so. This is a sobering reality when weighing the solar farms pros and cons.

Because of this lack of predictability, grid operators are left in a quandary, and forced to seek out other energy providers when solar farms produce a smaller output. For this reason, solar farms are not usually exclusive sources for grids, which must adopt a combination of renewable and non-renewable supplies. Even the movement of clouds can severely impact solar farm electricity yields.

Expensive Storage

Storage media like batteries help to save captured energy for when the need is optimal. At the same time, the technology to achieve this is pricey. Offsetting this expense is the fact that most energy consumption occurs when the sun is at its brightest—around midday. Still, such calculations do not grant for greater heat usage in the dark of winter, for instance. This is food for thought among the solar farms pros and cons.

Lithium-ion battery packs—capable of storing solar energy—cost approximately $1,000 per kilowatt hour. Even with the expanded capacity of grids to receive sun-generated electricity, the price passed on to the consumer is intolerable compared to what they would pay relative to fossil fuel power.

Require Rare Materials

Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS) are not available at retail establishments. These are highly specialized substances used to manufacture solar cells. In addition, they are finite and the use of rare earth minerals is controversial, even if the goals are not. Given the longevity of solar panels, this might not appear to be a concern. Nevertheless, while sunlight is renewable, these elements are not.

Summing Up

Harnessing the sun’s power for human usage shows enormous promise as a solution to energy shortage and climate change. Yet answers sometimes raise more questions as solutions sometimes create more problems. Continued research will help resolve some issues but diversifying energy sources is probably a safe strategy for the short term.

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Comment List

  • Are there solar companies willing to joint venture with a land owner in Florida in exchange for power? We could provide 100+ acres if there are such companies

  • We appreciate the article about solar energy and are leaning toward solar power ourselves or renting land to a solar company. We have 179.6 acres of land and 3 nice opened fields with power lines close for hook-up. We are retired farmers and could use some extra funds. If interested please contact us on how this can be done.

  • What about the negative impact of habit loss for the areas wildlife, The loss of oxygen producing trees, the loss of shaded areas that held moisture? The loss of farmable land to produce locally grown food for an ever increasing population? Several of these monstrosities are going up in Virginia near me and if I was a neighbor to one of these “farms” I would be extremely angry. These folks once had views of rolling farm fields, meadows and forested areas, now it looks like an apocalyptic disaster. Not to mention the loss of property value along with the increase in taxes because what was once rated as agricultural is now industrial.

  • There are other less expensive ways to store large amounts of energy, for example gravity storage using pumped water or the lifted mass, using a tower, a well, or a railroad.

  • Why are solar panels on solar farms so low to the ground?
    On the farms I’ve seen the panels when vertical are about 3 Ft off the ground and when Horizontal maybe 8-10 feet from the ground.
    Why aren’t they higher off the ground so livestock and farm equipment can go under. Still grow crops for livestock to eat and crops to be harvested by farm equipment. The sun is going to get throu and irrigation can’t reach higher panels.
    Just Wondering?

  • we are exploring the possibility of setting up a Solar Power Generating Farm in the rural part of Fiji on the most sunny side of the country.
    can your organisation assist in this.

  • What about the ruining of our Skies with chem trails on a daily basis 1 minute you have a beautiful blue sky next minute after a chem trail the sky is completely grey I see it all the time. This is counterproductive and blocks the sun which is the whole idea behind the solar panels. Don’t just take my word for it, it’s happening everywhere the proof is there to be seen.

  • Can you guarantee they won’t contaminate wells located near the “farms? How will they handle grasses and weeds? What about local wildlife who graze and live in those fields?

  • Covering our mountains and farmlands is happening way too much. No one wants to talk about the shortages of space to grow food or to raise animals. Then the fact that like windmills Solar is not environmentally friendly to birds, insects and mammals that live off the vegetation and trees that were once there. People brag about the carbon their foot print they are saving and how many trees they have saved. How many trees have been destroyed to put these solar farms in place? How much oxygen omitting plants are no longer there? We are going to create a environmental problem of great proportion when we have to replace non working equipment and find it is more polluting that the old energy sources were.

  • What about the impact of using them on farmland in areas of the world that are further from the equator and thus not in receipt of sunlight to the extent that crops or grazing can manage with less than they normally get? I understand that studies in hot areas have indicated that output can increase, but I very much doubt that is the case in for example northern Europe where typically shaded areas have much reduced or potentially zero grass growth.

  • I have concerns on effects on the wildlife such heat waves and birds, deer pathways. Plus, what about proximity to an airport, glare or heat wave effect on pilot vision and navigation equipment.

  • It is interesting to note that there is no mention of the fact that only ten percent of the energy from the suns rays are absorb by the solar technology and that the rest is reflected back into the atmosphere causing huge local climatic changes that may not be in the best interest of the planet as the storms that are created are relatively vicious and of course block the sun as well having the power to do physical harm to the panels.

  • We. like many, many folks across our great nation would love to invest in solar, but which form of solar is best for homes, i.e. the latest and proven most economic and reliable source?

    Also, what type of investigations are going on in the Earths Magnetic Field for energy production?

  • As long as those who elect to opt for unreliable solar-PV technology do so on THEIR dime & not the taxpayers, good – let them do so in keeping with that tried & true Latin proviso – Caveat Emptor! Go for it. I wish them well in their quest for an energy free future. In the meantime, as someone who grew up many years ago in the Aussie bush were blackouts were not uncommon, I’ll settle for reliable, available & affordable energy generated by way of fossil fuel technology that produces base load power 24/7.