December 2, 2021

Leasing Your Land: Key Infrastructure Terms to Know


When it comes to exploring leasing your land for a solar farm, there are elements about your property that will determine the feasibility of a project. Here are some of the most common that we find ourselves talking to landowners about:

The Many Types of Power Lines

There are three key types of power lines that you likely notice on or around your property, transmission lines, three-phase power lines, and single-phase power lines.

Transmission power lines are used for the bulk energy movement of high-voltage AC energy throughout the transmission network. These lines generally move high voltage power from from a generating site, such as a power plant, to an electrical sub-station where it is then transformed to a voltage ready for distribution.

Three-Phase Power vs. One or Two Phase Power

Three-phase power lines are required to be near the parcel for any of the large-scale projects that we develop. Three-phase electrical wiring can be identified by three wires on one electrical pole. Three phase also gives you 60 Hz voltage, while single or two phase is just 120V AC. Think of three-phase power as being able to supply power for more equipment, big facilities, and large towns. While single or two phase power is suitable for residential homes or rural roads with only a few homes to power.

Single-Phase Power Line

To determine if the electrical infrastructure surrounding your parcel is Three-Phase or Single-Phase, simply locate and study the nearest electrical pole. Generally metallic poles are transmission lines, while wood poles are suitable for Three-Phase or Single-Phase distribution. Finally in viewing the top of the pole, three-phase is best indicated by the presence of 3 wires mounted in parallel at the top.

Three-Phase Power Line

The Other Elements at Play

Sub-stations

A sub-station is a facility owned by the utility that converts power from high voltages to lower voltages, which allows that power to then be distributed through distribution lines to surrounding customers.

Small Sub-Station

Because the energy output at a solar farm is incompatible with the voltage necessary to run surrounding homes, a nearby sub-station is an essential element in any good solar farm.

While traveling a short distance to interconnect to a sub-station is standard in solar development, the further away the sub-station is from the solar farm, the more challenging it will be to interconnect to the utility. This can have a cost prohibitive effect that renders a potential solar farm unsuitable.

Medium Sub-Station

In some cases it may be necessary to upgrade a sub-station to accommodate a new solar farm, and in other cases a sub-station may need to be built specifically for a solar farm project. In these scenarios, all other elements of consideration such as acreage and terrain, would need to be ideal.

Capacity Concerns

Beyond the availability of the appropriate electrical infrastructure, we must also take into consideration the available capacity of the surrounding area.

When we speak of capacity, we refer to the maximum voltage and current that can be pushed through a given piece of equipment. Given that many solar land lease locations are already within communities, close to towns, or even other neighboring solar farms -  we need to be mindful of not overloading the grid and creating an undue burden on the electrical system.

The available capacity of the surrounding utility grid will be a key factor in determining the suitability of your potential solar farm.

Town By-Laws

Local council or municipal government has the ability, through regional government, to specify what things a town or city may regulate. They do this by creating and passing by-laws. Many towns already have solar specific by-laws that allow for or restrict solar installations. Some of the restrictions involve which parcels of land can be used, where the project is placed in relation to the town, or even the size of the project.

In some instances a towns by-laws can be too restrictive to consider a solar farm on local properties. In others, there may be no by-laws in place specifying any solar related restrictions - in those instances we work with towns to ensure sustainable and considerate solar development practices take place.

We hope this brief but insightful article provided educational information set to help you along your solar land lease journey. Explore more about how you can help Create a Solar Farm on Your Land, or even look into The Positive Effects of Agrivoltaics Systems.