Does solar energy negatively impact our health?
No. People have been safely living and working around solar panels for decades. In fact, studies show health-related air quality benefits from solar energy are worth even more than the electricity itself.1 Solar energy generates zero emissions, emits no pollutants, and has overwhelmingly positive benefits on human health.
Moreover, modern, photovoltaic (PV) panels are made of common, recyclable materials such as glass, aluminum, and copper. The solar cell material within the panel is typical of electronic equipment. To provide decades of corrosion-free operation, solar cells are encapsulated from air and moisture between two layers of plastic, with a layer of tempered glass and polymer sheet or industrial laminate, posing no concern for the water supply or public health.2
Does a solar project impact the environment?
Solar energy has among the lowest environmental impacts of any energy source, and it emits no air or water pollution.
At FPL, we take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. That’s why we embarked on the Solar Stewardship program, ensuring that solar can coexist with the flora and fauna across the state.
Our commitment to stewardship begins during development, when we consider the presence of any threatened or endangered species, as well as significant wildlife corridors, wetlands, and other ecologically important areas and adjust the site’s design accordingly.
After development, FPL works with various organizations to design and implement site-specific environmental enhancements like the planting of native trees, shrubs, and grasses, to make the sites bird- and pollinator-friendly.
We strategically choose the plants we use for these enhancements to increase biodiversity and limit the growth of invasive species.
Will a solar farm change the agricultural character of my community?
No. In fact, solar energy centers can increase biodiversity, protect against urban sprawl, and provide a low impact means of preserving the long-term agricultural character of a community. Dozens of solar farms are now operating in agricultural communities throughout Florida, quietly generating zero-emissions energy along with long-term economic benefits to local farming communities.
Solar energy centers consume no water from groundwater, wetlands, or surface water sources for irrigation. Moreover, no insecticides, fungicides, or fertilizers are used at solar energy centers. The reduction of chemical and nutrient inputs, coupled with the perennial groundcover, reduce the potential infiltration of these pollutants into the groundwater and reduce runoff into adjacent surface waters and wetlands.
As part of the stormwater management plan, a mixture of regionally appropriate grasses is established throughout the solar array fields at FPL solar energy centers. These perennial grasses stabilize the soil year-round, reduce the potential for erosion, and maintain the soil structure.3 A low-intensive groundcover maintenance and management regime that facilitates biologically diverse vegetation committees and increases in-soil carbon storage, sediment capture, and storm water retention.4
Finally, the primary components of a solar energy center – the racking, solar modules, and inverters – are all installed above ground. When a solar energy center ceases operation, these components can be removed and recycled, leaving the existing vegetation, soils, and topography of the site unchanged. Thus, the land can easily be returned to agricultural use at the end of a solar energy center’s lifecycle. Unlike housing developments, strip malls, and other commercial development projects, a solar energy center can be returned to agricultural use at the end of its useful life.
Do solar projects negatively impact local property values?
No. Numerous studies evaluating the integration of solar energy centers into local communities have concluded that because of their low-impact development and quiet operation, solar energy centers have no negative impact on property values.
CohnReznick property value impact study5
Methodology. A study conducted in 2020 evaluated property sales data next to 10 different solar energy centers over a five-year period, which compared over 30 sales in test areas with more than 200 comparable sales in control areas. The study also referenced CohnReznick’s previous experience analyzing more than 25 solar energy centers, of varying sizes, across the United States.
Conclusion. Researchers found no measurable or consistent difference in property values with regard to such market elements as sale prices, conditions of sale, marketing time, and rate of appreciation. Their findings were supported by interviews with real estate brokers and the County and Township Assessor in the areas where the solar energy centers were located. These findings were consistent with studies prepared by other real estate valuation experts across the United States.
What happens at the end of a solar energy center’s life?
Modern solar energy centers are designed to operate for at least 30 years, during which time they are carefully managed and maintained. It’s also possible to replace aging solar panels with newer, more efficient technology to extend their useful lives.
Should there no longer be a demand for the project after 30 years, we will decommission it and return the land to its original purpose or prepare it for some other future use. Decommissioning is the process of removing all elements of a solar energy center and returning the land to its original condition.
This process typically includes removing all infrastructure, including solar arrays, inverters, concrete foundations, and pads, as well as fencing. Inverters can be recycled as eWaste, and racking equipment can be re-utilized with newer technology or recycled like other materials. Additionally, FPL is working with vendors who recycle up to 98% of panels.
1 Wiser, Ryan et al. “On the Path to SunShot: The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2016.
2 “Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics,” N.C. State University, N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, May 2017.
3 Russelle, Michael P. Prepared Testimony of Michael P. Russelle on Behalf of Marshall Solar, LLC. Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. (2015)
4 Walston, L.J., L. Yudi, H.M. Hartmann, J. Macknick, A. Hanson, C. Nootenboom, E. Lonsdorf, J. Hellmann. (2021). Modeling the ecosystem services of native vegetation management practices at solar energy facilities in the Midwestern United States. Ecosystem Services 47: 101227
5 A. Lines, P. McGarr, “Impact Study of Property Values Adjacent to Solar: A Study of Ten Existing Solar Facilities,” CohnReznick, LLP, 2020