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What are the costs and benefits of developing my land with solar?

Ask an Expert: What are the costs and benefits of developing my land with solar?

I have 40 acres of flat land in southern Colorado immediately adjacent to power lines. What would my costs & benefits be if I used all of that acreage for solar electric?

Answer

I assume you are interested in developing the 40 acres with solar PV and then selling the electricity to a utility. Usually the landowner would get some sort of lease payment for use of his/her land in that case, but the actual developer of the project would be the one to benefit from selling the power.

40 acres might be enough to host a 5 or 6 megawatt solar array. This is larger than most community solar gardens but along the lines of what a smaller electric utility might be interested in purchasing directly. Of course they have to have enough capacity on their distribution/transmission lines to accept the energy and they need a reason to want to buy the power.

You could expect a utility to go through an RFP process to choose the most competitive proposals for procurement of renewable energy. If you were able to partner with a solar developer, the developer could submit a proposal on your behalf. While the lease payment would be the main benefit, losing access and use of that land is clearly the main downside. It may also be harder to sell land with solar.If you’re interested in using solar PV to offset your own bills, that 40 acres is likely much more power than you’d need. Any excess you generate above what you use at your meter would be sold to the utility at their avoided cost, which will have a very poor return on investment for you.

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