Here Comes the Sun: Top 5 Benefits of Large-Scale Solar
June 21 may have marked the first official day of summer, but for some parts of Michigan, the weather’s just starting to heat up. With the sun out in full force, it’s a good time to talk about this clean energy resource — and how Michigan’s local energy providers are making it work for our state, where the sun doesn’t always shine as brightly as in some other parts of the country.
Large-scale solar offers a number of benefits over smaller solar projects, for both economic and practical reasons:
- Powering entire communities. Large-scale solar projects can include thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of solar panels. That means instead of just providing power for one home, business, or building, large-scale solar projects help provide power for thousands of local households and businesses, including those that can’t install their own solar panels.
- Achieving economies of scale. A 2015 study found that large-scale solar projects “are significantly more cost effective.” In fact, the cost of generating energy via large-scale solar is “roughly one-half” the cost per kilowatt-hour of creating the same amount of energy via rooftop solar because of the sheer scale on which large-scale solar arrays absorb sunlight, as well as “greater solar electric output resulting from optimized panel orientation and tracking” of large-scale solar systems.
- Supporting local jobs and economies. Solar energy jobs are booming in Michigan, driven in no small part by the large-scale solar projects built by local energy providers, who are by far the largest investors in solar power in the state. Large-scale solar projects by their very nature require more labor — and involve more industries, including manufacturing, construction, engineering, etc. — which supports more Michigan jobs and puts more money back into local communities.
- Producing even cleaner clean energy. Large-scale solar projects help lower carbon emissions more efficiently. Comparisons show that generating 300 megawatts of power via large-scale solar “avoids approximately 50% more carbon emissions than an equivalent amount of residential-scale” (rooftop) solar generation.
- Expanding access to solar. Many people can’t access solar power via rooftop panels. They may not be able to afford installing and maintaining their own solar
panel system or they may live in an apartment or condo complex where they’re unable to do so. Large-scale solar projects help more consumers connect to solar power, giving more people — including low-income Michiganders — access to cleaner energy to power their homes and businesses.
Remember that the sun is not just working to infuse some vitamin D into your system, but is also being harnessed by Michigan energy companies to infuse more clean energy into our electric system. Large-scale solar is revitalizing our energy mix and helping us secure a cleaner energy future.