A solar developer–also called a project developer–is a company that shepherds a solar farm from an idea to reality (specifically, the point when it’s ready for construction). A developer can employ just a few employees or thousands. Some developers specialize in certain sizes of projects or in specific regions.
The process for developing a single farm can take years. Developers need to do quite a few things along the way, including but not limited to:
- Find land for the project. A site like SolarLandLease.com helps developers find landowners interested in leasing their land. Developers will negotiate a long-term lease agreement with the landowner.
- Find a customer (also called an “offtaker”) for the electricity the farm will produce. This is either a utility, an electric cooperative (in rural areas), or a corporation that wants the energy for its own use. The developer will negotiate a contract with the offtaker, which can take months by itself.
- Conduct technical, geological and other studies on the land as well as study how the energy generated by the farm will be connected to the electric grid. Some of these studies may necessitate that engineers visit your land but these will be short, unobtrusive visits.
- Apply for a variety of permits from local, state, and sometimes federal agencies.
- Secure financing for the construction of the farm.
- Negotiate equipment purchases for the solar farm, such as solar panels.
- Determine which company will build the solar farm. These are specialized construction companies called EPCs, which stands for Engineering, Procurement and Construction.
Everything above must happen before construction begins on the solar farm. Construction can take months or years, depending on the project size.
Who Owns the Solar Farm?
A developer may or may not choose to own and operate the solar farm once construction is completed. Most commonly, the developer sells the farm to another company once the contract with the customer is signed and construction is set to commence.
For a landowner, this is an important point. The lease agreement you sign for your land is between you and the developer. If the developer sells the project to another company to own and operate the farm, the lease agreement will transfer. Be sure to ask a developer interested in leasing your land what their plan is for the long-term ownership of the farm.