Siting and land use
The land area required for a desired power output, varies depending on the location, and on the efficiency of the solar modules, the slope of the site and the type of mounting used. Fixed tilt solar arrays using typical modules of about 15% efficiency on horizontal sites, need about 1 hectare/MW in the tropics and this figure rises to over 2 hectares in northern Europe.
Because of the longer shadow the array casts when tilted at a steeper angle, this area is typically about 10% higher for an adjustable tilt array or a single axis tracker, and 20% higher for a 2-axis tracker, though these figures will vary depending on the latitude and topography.
The best locations for solar parks in terms of land use are held to be brown field sites, or where there is no other valuable land use. Even in cultivated areas, a significant proportion of the site of a solar farm can also be devoted to other productive uses, such as crop growing or biodiversity.
Agrivoltaics is co-developing the same area of land for both solar photovoltaic power as well as for conventional agriculture. A recent study found that the value of solar generated electricity coupled to shade-tolerant crop production created an over 30% increase in economic value from farms deploying agrivoltaic systems instead of conventional agriculture.
In some cases several different solar power stations, with separate owners and contractors, are developed on adjacent sites. This can offer the advantage of the projects sharing the cost and risks of project infrastructure such as grid connections and planning approval. Solar farms can also be co-located with wind farms. Sometimes the title ‘solar park’ is used, rather than an individual solar power station.
Some examples of such solar clusters are the Charanka Solar Park, where there are 17 different generation projects; Neuhardenberg, with eleven plants, and the Golmud solar parks with total reported capacity over 500MW. An extreme example is calling all of the solar farms in the Gujarat state of India a single solar park, the Gujarat Solar Park.