Debunking solar myths: What about all that land?

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‘Uncle Bob’ is that proverbial character who shares at family gatherings all he believes to be true about solar and why it just isn’t a good idea. Dan Shugar, founder and CEO of Nextracker, has had this experience. Based on his 33 years in the solar industry, he offers short, fact-based responses to Uncle Bob’s assertions, which range from “solar is taking coal jobs” to “solar is unreliable.”

In this part four of the series, Shugar debunks myths about solar using too much land.

The proverbial Uncle Bob asks, “What about all that land being used by solar, if we try to power the country with solar, the whole country is going to be covered with solar panels.”

You could say, listen Uncle Bob, if we were to power 100%, and I mean generate extra energy in the day so batteries are using their power at night for everything, solar would cover less than one half of 1% of the land area.

But of course, solar is not just on land. It is being put on rooftops on homes or businesses. It covers carports. We see those a lot of solar on schools and for systems that are on the ground, which typically follow the sun with a tracker, we’re seeing customers increasingly use dual-use applications. For example, one of our great customers, Silicon Ranch Corporation, has pioneered the idea of dual use with agriculture and ranching where we’re seeing many solar power plants grazing livestock, sheep, cattle, and pollinators.

There’s plenty of area out there and we’re creating economic value in communities where projects are being built. We’re not manufacturing things in a faraway land and dumping them in communities, but they’re being made in the communities in which they’ll be used.

One of the most gratifying projects we’ve done at Nextracker with our manufacturing partner, J.M. Steel, brought new life to a manufacturing facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that had previously been a Bethlehem Steel facility, but it had been dormant for many decades. In fact, at that exact facility they made landing aircraft that were used to support the Normandy landing in World War Two. But we were able to use that existing technology with steel conveyors and equipment and infrastructure to start making modern solar plants. So, we’ve been able to create a new ecosystem.

It’s the ground zero of the new industrial revolution in clean energy.

Episode four: What about all that land being used by solar?

 

We’ll continue this series with fact-based responses to additional myths such as “solar takes too many coal jobs”.

Stay tuned as we unpack these objections, so you’re ready for your next dinner party with Uncle Bob.

View earlier episodes:

  • Part one, “All panels come from China” here.
  • Part two, “Solar is unreliable” here.
  • Part three, “What about nuclear?” here.

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