- Why solar?
- Are solar panels noisy?
- What are the visual impacts of solar?
- How will the project impact farmland and local agriculture?
- Will this project raise my power bills?
- Where will the power generated from the project go?
- What happens if the solar farm goes out of use?
- What happens to solar panels at the end of their life?
- What happens when it is cloudy outside?
- How will Coldwater Solar generate energy in the winter? Will it be impacted by heavy snow or extreme cold?
- Will anything be placed on my property without my permission?
- What benefits will I see if I am not hosting solar panels on my land?
- What happens to neighboring property values?
- Are solar panels toxic?
- Can solar panels affect my health?
- Can solar panels catch fire?
Over the past few years, demand for renewable energy has grown dramatically, driven in part by corporations with sustainability goals. More than 200 companies worldwide have made commitments to go 100% renewable. In addition, the state of Michigan has set a goal for utilities to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Because solar energy is clean, reliable, and affordable, it has earned the spot as the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world.
Solar panels themselves are completely silent. Certain pieces of equipment on a solar farm do emit sound. Transportation and maintenance equipment—including cars, trucks, lawnmowers, and string trimmers—is a common source of noise on solar farms that most people are used to hearing elsewhere. In addition to these sources, inverters and transformers on a solar farm will generate low levels of sound during the day when the sun is shining. The impact of this sound is negligible because the equipment is strategically placed between 200 and 300 feet away from residences to allow the sound to naturally dissipate.
Solar arrays spend most of the day at a low angle and at their maximum tilt (sunrise/sunset) are no more than 20 feet tall. Because panels are often screened by trees and other vegetation planted outside the project fencing, the visibility of a solar farm to nearby residences is minimal. As development progresses and the project is designed, we will identify areas where the project may be visible and where additional setbacks or vegetative screening may be appropriate to minimize visibility.
Solar farms act as a reliable, drought-resistant “crop” for local farmers. Access to such a consistent revenue stream in the face of falling commodity prices, uncertain trade regimes, and volatile annual weather can help farmers stay in business, supporting the preservation of their farms and way of life.
Coldwater Solar will not raise local electricity prices. In fact, the cost of solar power has dropped by more than 89% since 2010 and is now one of the lowest-cost options for electricity generation. When comparing unsubsidized, levelized costs of energy, utility-scale solar energy is comparable in price to wind energy and natural gas power and is significantly more cost-effective than coal or nuclear power. Solar also has the benefit of producing electricity during the times of day when demand and power costs are the highest. On a midsummer afternoon, for example, when homes and businesses are running their air conditioners at full power, a solar facility is generating at full power as well, which helps close the gap between electricity supply and electricity demand. This has the effect of lowering electricity costs across the board.
The power from Coldwater Solar will be delivered into the local Michigan electrical grid through available transmission lines, helping to diversify the state’s energy portfolio. This is the same pool that supplies all Michigan consumers with electricity, and power generated by the project may be used both locally and transmitted to where it is needed based on demand.
There are often concerns about what happens to a solar farm once it stops producing energy or if the owner goes out of business. As part of the permitting process, Apex must provide a complete detailed decommissioning plan that is funded by an irrevocable form of financial security to cover decommissioning costs. This ensures that money is always available to remove the solar farm if or when it is no longer operable.
There are often concerns about what happens to a solar farm once it stops producing energy or if the owner goes out of business. As part of the permitting process, Apex must provide a complete, detailed decommissioning plan that is funded by an irrevocable form of financial security to cover decommissioning costs. This ensures that money is always available to remove the solar farm if or when it is no longer operable. At the end of a solar facility’s useful life (30 years on average), panels can be removed and recycled. Up to 90% of the materials used in panels, much of which is glass, are recyclable.
You might be surprised to learn that solar panels still produce between 10% and 25% of their typical output even on a cloudy day. Fortunately, Branch County has some of the highest levels of annual sunlight in all of Michigan, making it a cost-effective region for generating electricity from solar farms. Advanced tracking systems also enable solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day and maximize the amount of electricity generated.
How will Coldwater Solar generate energy in the winter? Will it be impacted by heavy snow or extreme cold?
You might be surprised to learn that sunny, cold weather is an ideal condition for solar panels to perform optimally—and that extremely hot climates actually make solar panels less efficient. As far as snow is concerned, a light dusting of snow has little impact on the panels and can be easily blown off by wind. Because panels are tilted at an angle, snow will also slide off panels over time, cleaning them as it melts. Interestingly enough, due to the reflectivity, or albedo effect, of snow, having snow on the ground near the panels can contribute toward them producing more electricity because the smooth white surface reflects light like a mirror.
Project components will only be sited on private properties whose owners sign a lease agreement with Coldwater Solar. All agreements are fully voluntary between landowners and the project.
Coldwater Solar will bring over 30 years of annual property tax revenue, totaling millions of dollars over the life of the project, split between Branch County, Coldwater and Ovid Townships, and local school district millages. The project will also bring over 100 jobs to the area during the construction phase, several long-term direct jobs, and additional local spending related to project operations and maintenance.
Recent research supports the conclusion that solar panels do not decrease property values. Furthermore, there is no discernible impact on property values regardless of whether solar farms are located near residential, agricultural, or industrial properties.¹
Studies have also found that substantial benefits are flowing to communities where solar farms are located. A report by the University of North Carolina examined the economic impact of more than 100 solar projects in over 50 countries and found that solar facilities have increased the tax revenue from agricultural property by between 1,000% and 10,000%.²
¹CohnReznick, LLP, “Property Value Impact Study: Proposed Newark Road Solar Energy Use,” May 2018, http://www.co.kendall.il.us/wp-content/uploads/Attachment-29-Property-Value-Study.pdf; Kirkland Appraisals, LLC, “Flatwood Solar Impact Study,” April 2018, http://www.chathamnc.org/home/showdocument?id=39355.
²Alsey Davidson et al., “Analyzing the Impact of Utility-scale Solar Installations on Local Government Revenue in Counties Across North Carolina,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Institute for the Environment, December 2015, https://ie.unc.edu/files/2015/12/capstone_ENEC698Fall15FinalPaper.pdf.
No, and here’s why not: Coldwater Solar is expected to utilize bifacial monocrystalline silicon solar modules. These panels use a crystal lattice of silicon atoms to convert sunlight into electricity. They are called “bifacial” because they have solar semiconductor materials on both sides of the panel, which allows each panel to generate more electricity than a single-sided panel would. Silicon is the second-most-abundant material on Earth (after oxygen) and the most common semiconductor used in computer chips (see https://www.energy.gov/eere/ solar/ articles/solar-photovoltaic-cell-basics). It is nontoxic.
Unlike other energy sources, solar energy does not produce emissions that may cause negative health effects or other environmental damage. Solar farms produce lower electromagnetic field exposure than most household appliances, such as TVs and cell phones, and numerous studies have concluded that solar panels are not linked to any adverse human health issues. On the contrary, they have proved beneficial to human health by displacing the air pollution caused by fossil fuel electric generation, conserving clean water, and reducing the harmful impacts of climate change.
An extensive North Carolina State University study examining the fire, safety, and public health risks of utility-scale solar energy projects, including concerns regarding toxicity, electromagnetic fields, and electric shock potential, concluded that “the negative health and safety impacts of utility-scale PV development were shown to be negligible, while the public health and safety benefits of installing these facilities are significant and far outweigh any negative impacts.”
Fires caused by solar equipment are rare and only occur if an improper connection or other electrical fire hazard is present. The majority (over three-quarters) of each solar panel’s weight is composed of nonflammable protective glass. Only a small portion of the panels’ materials are flammable, which prevents them from self-sustaining a significant fire.
In most circumstances, good system design, product selection, and installation procedures are enough to minimize the risk of fire to the greatest extent possible. These concerns are further addressed by product safety standards, National Electric Code provisions, and inspections that take place prior to solar facility energization. Coldwater Solar will also consult with local first responders to ensure they have the training, facility information, and equipment needed to respond in the unlikely event of a fire within the facility.