What is Utility Scale Solar?
Utility Scale Solar (also called industrial solar) is a way to generate clean and local energy at low costs. These projects generate 50+ megawatts (MW) of electricity, and only 1 MW is needed to power 300 homes.
Solar technology can be used in virtually any condition, including rainy and snowy days because strongest UV rays still reach the earth. Solar power is a clean, affordable and reliable energy source in places with much less sunlight than we have in Ohio, including Canada and Norway.
Utility scale solar projects are much larger than rooftop solar. Fields of solar panels mounted on support structures are needed to generate enough energy to become a reliable part of the electricity grid.
Typically multiple landowners lease land to host a project of this size because 5 to 8 acres is needed for each MW generated. The average farm size in Ohio is 171 acres per farm.
A 100 MW solar project would require between 500 and 800 acres of land. 1 acre is roughly the size of 75% of a football field, meaning a 100 MW solar project would need 670-1070 football fields of land.
What distinguishes utility-scale solar from community solar is both project size and the fact that the electricity is sold to wholesale utility buyers, not individual consumers. Utility-scale solar plants provide the benefit of fixed-priced electricity during peak demand periods when electricity from fossil fuels is the most expensive.
Benefits of Utility Scale Solar
Beyond the benefits of solar energy in a general sense, there are specific benefits to utility scale solar projects.
Leasing land to utility scale solar projects can provide security for farmers and their families, ensuring a long term income plan that is not dependent on having a good year of crops. Ultimately it’s up to the land owner how they want to use their land. These partnerships allow farmers to lease their land for renewable energy projects, allowing them to retain ownership of the land and make money off their land at the same time.
As a source of clean energy, solar also improves the local economy. Incorporating solar into our all-of-the-above energy mix reduces costs, minimizes air pollution, and promotes a "Made in America" approach to energy, creating and preserving local, well-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.
Additionally, local utility scale solar has the potential to support and grow community services like schools and emergency response. Most projects make annual and long-term payments directly to the community where they are located under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, which go directly to supporting local schools and critical community services. This means that utility scale solar projects benefit the community as a whole throughout its 45-50 year life span, not just the landowners who are able to lease land to the project.
Projects and Locations
Utility scale solar projects must be approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). Information about specific projects can be found on the OPSB website.