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In New York State, solar developers are primarily interested in building relatively small solar farms (5 MWac). While large farms must connect to high-voltage transmission lines, these smaller farms must connect to three-phase distribution lines.

Ideally, as a landowner you would have three-phase lines on or very close to your property. If they are too far away—typically a half-mile or more—the cost of building a connecting line to that three-phased line would make building a solar farm on your property cost-prohibitive.

Three-Phase or Single-Phase?

If your property has electricity, you either have a three-phase line or a single-phase line. If it’s single-phase, and there is no three-phase line close to your property, your property will not work for a solar farm. 

To determine if your line is three-phase or single-phase, first look for wood poles—often called a telephone pole or utility pole. All distribution lines, whether three- or single-phase, are mounted on wood poles. Metal poles carrying electrical wires are transmission lines.

In rural areas, wood poles are usually placed along a road. Check all of the roads that border your property. If no roads border your property, the poles may cross your property.

3-phase power line

A typical three-phase line mounted along a road

Next, look at the top of the poles for three wires that run parallel to each other. On a three-phase line, two of the wires will be mounted at either end of a horizontal “T” bar, and one of the wires will be mounted centered between those, and usually a little higher above.

There may be additional wires below the three at the top (such as telephone or cable TV lines) but lines carrying electricity will always be mounted at or near the top of a wood pole.

If the wood pole only has two wires near the top of the pole, with one above the other and there is no T-bar, this is a single-phase line.

You may see occasional exceptions to these configurations. The key is to look for three wires, in parallel. If you see that, you most likely have a three-phase line.

Next Steps

If you have at least 20 acres in New York State that are relatively flat and clear, with three-phase distribution lines on or near your property, tell us about your land with this simple form. We’ll evaluate whether your land can work for a solar farm and connect you with qualified solar developers.

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