The number of solar projects being built in the U.S. continues to grow almost exponentially, but some of the terms can still be confusing to those considering investing in these virtually no-fail projects. Anyone considering investing should become as familiar as possible with the various types of solar farms or parks.
A “solar park” is usually what Europeans call “solar farms,” and they’re the same in many ways. In the U.S., however, the term “solar park” generally refers to large-scale industrial or governmental projects.
Companies such as WalMart and other large shopping areas including malls have become fond of placing solar panels on top of a carport or parking garage structure. Vehicles are protected from weather, and the companies use the solar power generated to help offset their own power use or sell it to local energy companies or community co-ops. (But beware of co-ops. See our earlier blog on the issue.)
Saratoga Springs, New York, has begun to develop two new solar parks in an effort to quadruple its solar use. A grant program called NY-Sun gives investors access to $432 million until 2016.
With the grant, Skidmore College and Saratoga Springs have decided to build their own solar parks to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to save money. The college is building an eight-acre park capable of producing enough energy to power 2,600 homes. Instead of buying power, the college will be able to power its entire campus from the solar array.
The city of Saratoga Springs is planning its solar park atop an old landfill, a growing trend among municipalities “stuck” with otherwise undesirable public land. The city hopes the solar park will fund several municipal operations including city hall and an ice rink. Is solar park just a trendier term to sell more solar farms these days?