FAQs

What are the economic benefits of large-scale solar farms?

The Ratts 1 Solar Project is an estimated $128 million local investment. An independent study based on 150 MW shows that it will result in broad economic benefits, including:

During construction:

  • An estimated 188 full-time construction jobs.
  • A contribution of over $19 million to the county’s GDP.
  • An additional 42 indirect full-time local and regional jobs.

During the project's 35-year operational life:

  • Up to 4 anticipated full-time operations and maintenance jobs.
  • An additional 5 full-time, indirect jobs.
  • A contribution of over $880,000 per year to the local GDP.

What does it take to get a project built? What is the project dependent on?

It can take three to five years from project conception to completion, depending on local conditions and permits, utility requirements, financing, land availability and other development needs.

The Ratts 1 project is on the following timeline:

  • Current: Finalizing land transactions and reviewing permitting requirements
  • Mid 2020: Initial engineering layout and environmental review; local approvals (including public meeting)
  • Early 2021: Final approvals and agreements needed to begin construction
  • 2021 or 2022: Construction, with operation no later than 2023

Why do we need solar?

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) that plans the Midwest's power grid projects that demand for renewable energy in the wholesale market in 2030, based on existing commitments of utilities, corporations and public policy goals, will reach 30% of total energy. As of December 2019, renewable energy in MISO stands at 8%. Of the 69,000 MW required to meet this demand, only 19,000 MW are currently operating, leaving a 50,000 MW gap. (Source)

Who is demanding renewables?

Energy buyers, from retail consumers to commercial businesses are increasingly demanding carbon-free power for environmental as well as economic reasons. The price of solar panels and related equipment has dropped significantly over the past 15 years at the same time policies, like renewable portfolio standards, require a percentage of power come from renewables.

What are the regional benefits of solar?

Solar helps the electric grid to:

  • Diversify and complement other technologies- wind generates at night, solar during the day
  • Produce power during the day when demand is higher
  • Reduce fuel costs and risks

How much does it cost to build a solar farm?

Generally, a 100 MW to 150 MW solar farm results in approximately a $125 million investment.

What are you paying landowners? What are you paying landowners?

Tenaska is committed to open and transparent relationships with landowners. We have a standard lease that provides the same terms to all landowners within the project footprint.

Does the solar farm impact property values?

The presence of a solar field has shown no measurable negative impact on the value of adjacent properties. Various studies, including a valuation study of solar farms in Indiana, show that solar fields, have in some cases, increased property values.

Is farmland taken out of production for solar farms?

We enter into voluntary land leases with landowners for the useful life of the solar farm. The land's existing uses vary and include agricultural applications. The land, rested and restored, is returned to the landowner at the conclusion of the 35-year project life, at which time it can returned to farmland or other previous use. Landowners typically find it is more economical to use their land for solar than for farming.

Who will construct the project?

An engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor will be hired. The EPC contractor performs design, completes engineering and manages construction of the plant. The EPC contractor also awards construction materials contracts and subcontracts for certain portions of the work. We encourage our EPC contractors to use local contractors and vendors when possible.

How to people get trained to work on solar installations?

Solar installation jobs require education and/or experience in solar, electrical, renewable energy, engineering technology or construction-related fields. There may also be certification exams available like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. We will be relying on the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, not yet hired, to determine training and hiring requirements. We are open to working with local colleges and vocational programs to share information and possible opportunities.

How many construction jobs are created?

There are several factors that contribute to the quantity of construction staff, including schedule constraints, weather, skill level of the local labor force. An independent economic study reported 188 full-time equivalent construction jobs will be created, which, depending job duration, is likely to employ roughly 350 people at peak construction, but it could be higher. Peak construction will last roughly 6 months, with some jobs beginning earlier and some later. The exact trade breakdown can/will depend on local/state labor requirements.

Will you have a job fair for construction workers?

We will hire an engineering, procurement and construction contractor for this project. This contractor manages the hiring and sub-contracting, but it is common to hold a job fair when entering a new solar PV market such as this. We encourage the use of local labor and local contractors as much as possible. As construction nears, we will make these opportunities known locally.

Are there any setbacks?

Setbacks and other design requirements are evaluated during the permitting phase based on local ordinances and requests from officials. We have agreed to 200 feet setbacks from nonparticipating landowners.

Do you have an interconnect agreement and where is the point of interconnect?

Each project is in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) interconnect queue and it being evaluated to connect to the nearest viable interconnect point. A technical and economically feasible interconnection is critical to project success.

Who will buy the solar power? Can I buy solar?

We are seeking power purchase agreements with utilities or other large offtakers capable of buying most or all of the generation. We can not sell directly to retail customers, but you may have the opportunity to purchase solar energy through your local utility.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels (or photovoltaic PV modules) turn sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. The panels are supported by a racking structure and paired with inverters that convert the DC electricity into alternating current (AC). The AC electricity passes through a transformer to ensure it is at the appropriate voltage before being sent to the electric grid at a utility interconnection point.

What are the health impacts of solar farms?

There are no proven health risks from solar fields, and homeowners commonly have solar panels installed on their residences.

In fact, solar fields are known for having a positive benefit on air quality. Solar fields generate clean, renewable power with zero air emissions and often replace older and less-efficient fossil fuel-based sources of power with significant air emissions. A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that this corresponds to a lower risk of respiratory issues and heart attacks.

Solar fields are generally not associated with health risks from electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Humans are exposed to EMFs in their daily life, such as from a refrigerator. We will have operations employees at the solar farm, and their safety is a priority. You can read more about EMFs on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Do solar farms produce noise?

Solar panels do not produce noise, but the inverters that change the current of electricity from DC to AC do produce a slight hum that is not audible past the property boundaries. Solar projects are considered quiet neighbors.

Do solar farms cause glare?

For optimal power generation, solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight, not reflect it. Glint/glare studies can be performed to assess potential impact. Further, it is common for airports to install solar arrays for power generation, without experiencing glare issues.

What type of fencing will there be? What other security will there be?

Chain-link fencing will be installed along the perimeter of the solar field. If there is a concern of vandalism, security cameras can be installed in strategic locations.

How big is a solar panel?

The exact technology for this project has not yet been selected. Generally, sizes range from around 3 feet to up to 7 feet. The arrays are configured in blocks or groups of panels. Once mounted on the rack, panels can range in height from 8 to 15 feet high.

Will the project only generate when its is sunny? Is there storage?

Solar projects can only generate by converting sunlight to electricity. The Midwest still has daytime peak hours that are well served by solar. While storage technology is developing, it is not currently planned for this location.

How much power will the project make?

A 150 MW project will make enough electricity for about 28,000 households per year.

What is the operating life of a solar farm?

Solar farms have an expected 35-year life, much of which is covered by a manufacturer's warranty. Solar panels can continue to produce energy past their warranty, though efficiencies may decrease. Once the panels are no longer efficient, the farm will be dismantled, upgraded or repowered, depending on terms of the land agreement, power needs and other market forces.

Where do the panels come from?

The exact technology and supplier for this project has not yet been selected. The decision will be made based on quality and cost (including trade and tariff considerations). There are ample manufacturers to choose from domestically and internationally (see map here).

How well do panels perform amid dust (from farming or other operations)?

Dust does reduce the performance of the panels/modules. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to clean. In wet climates, dust is washed from panels by rain and snow. In drier climates, mechanical washing is performed

Are there any toxins in solar panels that could leech into the land/water?

The solar panels selected for this project do not contain toxins such as cadmium. Instead, these panels will be made of layers of glass sandwiched between metal.

What is the impact on farm animals?

We anticipate little to no impact on farm animals. Fencing will be installed along the perimeter of the solar field to prevent farm animals from accessing the solar field.

What is the impact on wildlife?

We have environmental experts conducting an environmental analysis to understand any impacts on wildlife. Solar projects have been known to provide habitat for birds and pollinators like bees and butterflies from project landscaping and ground cover.

Local and state jurisdictions often require studies to be performed to assess the impact to certain species of wildlife, such as rare, threatened or endangered species study. Other impacts are assessed in an environmental site assessment.

What is the visual/view shed impact of solar?

Large-scale solar spans many acres but is low to the ground, unlike wind turbines or the stacks and cooling towers at fossil fueled generating stations. The perimeter of the solar field may be landscaped to minimize visibility.

Will the project cause light pollution at night?

Outside of nighttime lighting needed for safety and security, the project will have minimal lighting and should not cause light pollution. No lighting is required for FAA standards like you may see with wind projects.

Do panels impact TV reception?

Solar generation facilities do not cause impacts to over-the-air (OTA) digital TV reception. Unlike wind turbines that can potentially cause signal scattering due to the turbines and blades and their siting relative to TV stations and receptors, solar facilities have a much lower profile and do not affect the OTA signals.

Do you know where all the drain tiles are and what are your plans in case you break one?

If maps are available, we will take tile locations into design consideration and attempt to minimize damage. If drain tiles are damaged by the project, we will fix them. It is in our best interest to minimize and/or repair damage as standing water is not desired.

Will there be a drainage plan?

The project will have a drainage plan, as well as a storm water pollution prevention plan.

Will there be trees or bushes to help with viewshed?

Compared to other sources of power, solar fields are low to the ground and, as a result, have minimal visual impacts.

Will you use pollinator friendly grasses?

We intend to put a vegetation management plan in place that relies, to the extent possible, on local flora that potentially maintains the current vegetation and is pollinator friendly. There are vegetation options that include herbivore-friendly species such as alfalfa (depending on local restrictions).

How many operators are needed and what is the average salary?

There would be four operations employees, with average annual salaries of roughly $70,000. There will also be a need to hire through third-party contractors for seasonal work (mowing), specialized electrical work, etc..

Are there any subsidies for solar?

There are certain federal tax incentives and grants that help make the economics of solar work. Tax credits help the economic viability of the project. At the local level, we review available incentives for large-scale commercial solar. Programs like Enterprise Zones and Renewable Portfolio Standards vary between and within states. The economic feasibility of a project will take into consideration all costs and incentives.

What will you do for weed control?

Our vegetation management plan will include weed/vegetation control, primarily through mowing. Weed control is critical to solar projects as weeds can impede maintenance access and cause reduced generation from shading. There are vegetation options that include herbivore-friendly species such as alfalfa (depending on local restrictions).

How will the project use the roads (i.e. number of trucks, weight of trucks)?

Prior to the start of construction, we will work with state and county agencies (as appropriate) to develop a detailed plan of the expected transportation routes, the number of trucks and maximum truck weights. The plan will also document the existing condition of the roadways.

What kind of education/training/background is needed for operations jobs?

Generally, solar projects are operated by experienced O&M (operations and maintenance) professionals who may hire local employees with backgrounds as technicians and electricians or similar expertise. Additionally, local companies are periodically retained to provide support services consisting mainly of vegetation management but may also include occasional janitorial or snow removal services.

Will taxpayers have to fund specialized first responder training because of the project?

We will work with first responders to ensure they understand the project layout and receive any supplemental training required by electrical generation projects, which are minimal.

What is the decommissioning and solar disposal plan?

It is standard practice to have a decommissioning plan and cost estimate prior to the start of construction. In some cases, a letter of credit or bond is put in place to ensure the availability of future decommissioning costs.

Who is developing the projects?

Two highly experienced companies with a track record of success are developing these projects:

  • Arevon: A global provider and North America's leading renewable energy company,
    Arevon operates the 2nd largest portfolio of operating solar assets in North America. In addition to its over 3.5 GWdc of commercially operating utility-scale, commercial/industrial, distributed generation, and battery storage assets, Arevon has 3.0 GWdc of solar assets currently under construction in the United States.
  • Tenaska: Omaha, Nebraska-based energy company with extensive experience developing energy projects in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Tenaska has developed 10,500 MW, including 550 MW of renewables.
Arevon
Tenaska

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