Can I Locate Solar Farms within Wind Farms?

Solar and wind energy are the frontrunners in renewable energy forms. Most countries have already seen rapid interest and growth in both these sectors.

Solar farms and wind farms which are used for power production in a large scale share certain similar traits like:

  • Both require large land areas.
  • Both require robust electrical and power evacuation infrastructure
  • Both forms of energy are intermittent in nature

Why would we go for a co-location (solar farms within wind farms)?

  • Wind turbines are usually located at large distances from one another (varying between 3-7 times the turbine diameters, horizontally or vertically).This requisite for wind energy production usually translates into a huge amount of empty land. This is either utilized for farming or if unsuitable for that, left wasted.
  • Solar and wind energy outputs are complimentary in nature. That is to say, solar farms produce more power during summers and wind in winters. Within a day, solar farms produce energy during the daytime while the other produces energy irrespective of sunshine. Thus integrating outputs from both the farms ultimately results in a more stable outcome.

What are the benefits expected from co-location of solar and wind farms?

Looking at the work involved in setting up both the power plants, it is observed that there are synergies in various aspects of it. A few are listed below:

  • Land required for the energy farms
  • Permits required for land acquisition
  • Civil and Infrastructure Costs: Access roads, control rooms, security rooms, in-farm roads
  • Electrical infrastructure: Evacuation line, D.P yard, transformers
  • Monitoring Systems
  • Safety Equipment

Experts believe that co-location of solar and wind farms benefits from these synergies as it translates to around 7% savings in capital investments.

Now, are there challenges involved in co-locating solar farms and wind farms?

There are a couple of challenges that could be faced. They are:

  • Shading losses for the solar panels owing to the wind turbines
  • Effect of Solar Panels on Wind Pattern
  • Transformer and Evacuation Infrastructure Sizing
  • Operations and Maintenance considerations
  • Effect of wind on solar systems

Industry experts believe that these challenges can be overcome. Let’s look at some of their arguments.

  • Minimization of shading losses can be done through design optimization and prudent layout of solar panels
  • Most studies suggest that the effect of solar panels on wind pattern in an area is insignificant
  • Design optimization of transformer and electrical infrastructure in the initial stage can help in proper sizing of these
  • Sufficient space for operations and maintenance of both the farms should be provided for
  • Solar systems near wind turbines do not experience high winds since they are on a lower altitude. Wind speed near ground level isn’t very high even in high windy zones. So the effect of it is almost insignificant on solar PV systems.

Considering the above arguments, it is reasonable to believe that co-location of solar and wind farms is feasible. Against the fact that there are potential savings in investment and near-zero technical bottlenecks, solar farms within wind farms makes for a viable opportunity.

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India Renewable Energy Expert