General/Process Questions About Leasing Your Land to Solar Developers
Every solar developer, and every solar project, will work a little differently. But here are the basic steps that don’t vary by much.
- Legal evaluation. Developers will need to dig into legal matters concerning your land such as zoning, ownership status, mineral rights, easements, tax abatements and title restrictions. This can take a few weeks or a few months. If no problems are discovered, the developer will negotiate a fair lease price with you for your land.
- Site studies. Once you and the developer sign a lease agreement, the developer will begin a series of technical and environmental studies on your land. This can take up to two years, depending on the size of the site. During this time, you can continue to use your land and any revenue you generate from it is yours to keep.
- Construction. Once all studies are complete, full financing for the project has been secured, and any outstanding permitting and zoning issues have been settled, construction will begin. Construction length depends on the size of the project and ranges up to 18 months for a very large site.
- Operations. Once constructed, the solar farm will generate electricity for 20-30 years. A small on-site staff of one or two individuals will monitor it. Additional service personnel may occasionally appear for maintenance.
The length of construction depends on the size of the farm and what preparation needs to happen first on the site (such as clearing trees). As a ballpark, a small farm might require a month to build, whereas a very large site could take up to 18 months. Keep in mind that months or even years of development work needs to happen before construction commences.
Modern solar panels have an estimated useful life of up to 35 years, though contracts to sell solar energy typically don’t exceed 20 or 25 years, which is why the lease term is typically less. When the lease expires, the solar farm will either be decommissioned (everything removed from your land, at the operator’s expense) and the land returns to you, or, if you’re willing, the lease could be extended if there’s continued market demand for the power. In that case, the panels and other equipment might be upgraded but the basic shape of the solar farm probably wouldn’t change (though that depends somewhat on how much solar technology advances by then).
You will need to give notice to your lessee to plan on winding down their farming or ranching activities. Fortunately, it may be several months before they need to go.
Unfortunately, no. The solar farm must be connected to the electrical grid at a much higher voltage than your house uses.
The concepts are similar but renting generally involves shorter-term use, such as renting a house for a few months. Leases are long-term contracts. A solar land lease is typically for 20 or more years.
Most developers are willing to carve out a portion of a project area to accommodate structures that you want to remain there or continue to live in. Developers may also be willing, at their expense, to demolish and remove smaller structures that you no longer use, such as a barn or shed.
Yes, the entire facility will be fenced for security and liability purposes. If you have aesthetic concerns about the particular type of fence that will be used or its precise placement, discuss those concerns with the developer.
Once operational, solar farms do not use or produce any hazardous materials, gasses or chemicals that could harm your land. During construction, land impacts will be modest and temporary, mostly caused by the activity of trucks and construction equipment.
None at all! This is one of the best things about solar farms. In contrast to a coal or natural gas plant, solar farms release no emissions of any kind into the air, soil or water. They also don’t produce any noise or light, nor release radiation.
Working With Solar Developers
That’s a very rare occurrence. But, if a developer can’t finish construction, a bond posted by the developer and backed by a major financial institution will cover the expense of restoring your property to its original condition.
Submitting and Managing Your Information
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