The generation of electricity from photovoltaic (PV) solar panels is safe and effective. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, few power-generating technologies have as little environmental impact as PV solar panels. Because PV systems do not burn fuels, they do not produce toxic air emissions or greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional fossil fuel-fired generation technologies.
Ground-mounted PV solar arrays are made of panels of silicon solar cells covered by a thin layer of protective glass, which is attached to an inert solid underlying substance (or “substrate”). The most common type of PV panel is made of tempered glass, which is very strong. They pass hail tests and are regularly installed in Arctic and Antarctic conditions. Because PV panel materials are enclosed, and do not mix with water, there is little to no risk of chemical releases to the environment during normal use. The photovoltaic solar panels are designed to operate for decades without corrosion and have been operating as such around the world for decades. If a solar panel does crack, it is designed so that it will not shatter and scatter into debris but will remain in one piece, much like a cracked windshield. In the rare instance that a panel does become cracked, it will be replaced immediately.
No permanent impacts to aquifers, groundwater, or surface water are anticipated to result from the Skaneateles Solar Project. The Project is not located over, or immediately adjoining, a primary, principal or sole source aquifer and must comply with all federal, state and local regulations to ensure that that public water supplies, wetlands, and other water resource areas are properly protected. Care has been taken to design the project to avoid impacts to wetlands and waterbodies.
Yes, solar PV systems are designed to have several options to shut off the system in the event of an emergency. They have multiple protection systems such as reclosers installed both on utility and customer side with easily accessible switches. There are also additional systems to shut down the generation at the inverter and transformers and the utility has designed the interconnection scheme considering anti-islanding protection, etc. Furthermore, the system has electronic monitoring with the ability to detect multiple different types of faults or extreme weather conditions and automatically engage a specific mode of operation shut down the generation if necessary.
Although a very rare occurrence, if a solar panel receives a direct hit by lightning, it can sustain damage to its electronic components and may lead to short-circuit failures in the system. Repair or replacement of damaged electronic components would be required.
Through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Community Solar Program, New Yorkers can subscribe to the community solar project and receive credits on your regular electric bill for the clean energy produced by solar projects. Everyone, including renters and co-op/condo owners, can save money by accessing the clean energy produced by these solar farms. To learn more about the Community Solar Program, visit the NYSERDA website for additional information.
Herbicides, pesticides, and cleaning chemicals will not be used during construction or during operation and maintenance of the Project. Vegetation will be primarily maintained via mowing, weeding, watering, pruning, fertilizing. The typical frequency and amount of rainfall in New York State is adequate to clean any debris from solar panels. If an unusual amount of sediment accumulates on the panels, water or mild soap and water is sufficient to clean them.
Yes, solar panels can be recycled. Diverting solar panels from landfills to recycling saves space in landfills and captures the value of reusing the raw materials.
Crystalline-silicon solar technology represents most of the solar panel market share. This type of panel is constructed with an aluminum frame, glass, copper wire, polymer layers, silicon solar cells, and a plastic junction box. Many of these components can be recycled. Glass composes most of the weight of a solar panel (about 75 percent), and glass recycling is already a well-established industry. Other materials that are easily recyclable include the aluminum frame, copper wire, and plastic junction box.
Other components of a solar power system may include inverters, racking, and battery backup systems, which may also be recycled. Inverters may be able to be recycled with electronic waste, and racking may be recycled with similar scrap metals.
The project has been designed to meet all NYSDEC standards for protection of stormwater and to ensure drainage patterns are not impacted. A Final SWPPP will be prepared that will describe in specific terms the erosion and sediment control practices that will be implemented during construction activities, and the stormwater management practices that will be implemented after Project construction has been completed.
The Project is not expected to produce noise that would adversely impact the neighbors. Inverters are typically louder than transformers, though neither produce sounds above normal ambient levels. Together, the sound at the property line is estimated to approximate that of a typical human conversation, or between 50 and 65 decibels.
The average expected lifespan of solar panels is 25 - 30 years, but it’s possible that they can produce electricity for longer than that. Just like a lot of other equipment, solar panels don’t perform at 100% for their entire life and then just stop working in year 30. Instead, solar panels degrade over time at a very slow rate and produce less electricity as they age. The panels will continue to produce energy for many years to come but at a lower efficiency level, which is why they will likely either be replaced or recycled.
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Nancy Vlahos, Senior Project Development Manager
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RIC Development, LLC, 85 Broad St, 28th Floor, New York, NY 10004
RIC Energy is a global company specializing in the development of photovoltaic projects, with experience in construction, operation and maintenance and financial structuring. Founded in 2005 in Spain, we are pioneers in the photovoltaic solar market. RIC Development, LLC, a subsidiary of RIC Energy, is a leading renewable energy developer of solar PV farms in the United States with a focus on the local community. We pride ourselves on identifying key stakeholders early in the development process and working together with them to create high-value projects with the lowest impact to the surrounding landscape and community. We do this by forging partnerships in the communities where we work to make the process of integrating clean sources of locally produced energy into the environment a benefit to everyone involved. Whether working with landowners, utilities, or town officials, we are continually striving to achieve the dual goals of economic and ecological sustainability. Together with leading environmental and engineering experts, our projects are designed to reduce environmental impacts to the maximum extent possible, as well as to improve and maintain soil health.