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What's Better? Rooftop or Utility Scale Solar

Updated: Oct 25

Utility scale solar arrays covering verdant pastures and marring bucolic landscapes are unacceptable to some folks.


Others are okay with the aesthetic challenges large solar sites present.


To them it's just a trade off to help fight climate change.


But as the race for more solar by 2030 amps up, this issue is becoming more prominent.


And people complain about more than just unpleasant visuals.


Environmentalists worry about erosion caused by cutting down trees and clearing land that is sometimes required for large solar installations.




So how will countries pledging to reduce carbon emissions by 30, 40 50% over the next decade find suitable locations for solar arrays in order to meet these goals?


There is no clear solution, and it will take lots of compromise as debates intensify.


Just to give you an idea of the size of some of these solar arrays, a one megawatt solar site is the size of about 8 football fields.


And many of these arrays are about 80 megawatts, which is around one square mile.


The big benefit to large solar installations is cost. These large arrays produce electricity cheaper than small solar installations.


Since utilities often build these enormous arrays and sell the energy to their customers, the bigger the array the better.


So the move toward rooftop solar and smaller community solar arrays that can be built on brown sites and parking lot canopies requires a mindset shift, since these arrays are built by individuals and communities.



Instead of thinking about electricity as something you purchase from a utility, think about it as something you can produce for yourself.


If more people thought this way, small solar projects would dominate the solar landscape.


Now, some experts say there aren’t enough rooftops to produce all of the solar energy that will be needed to meet the renewable energy goals.


That may be true.


But the more solar panels going on rooftops, brownfields, and parking lot canopies, the fewer unsightly and environmentally unfriendly large solar arrays that need to be built.


It’s not the total answer, but it’s a step in the right direction.


But it will take a mindset shift.


Joe Collins is the owner of CIE Solar Energy, LLC.


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