LYONS, Neb. – Falling equipment costs coupled with increased demand for clean energy has led to a rapid increase in solar development over the past decade, a trend that is expected to continue, particularly in rural areas, according to a new Center for Rural Affairs resource guide.
“Solar projects are often located in rural areas and can provide many benefits to nearby communities, including rental payments to landowners, increased tax revenue and job creation,” said Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher, senior policy associate at the Centre, author of the guide. . “But local governments also need to think about what happens to sites that reach the end of their life cycle.”
Decommissioning requirements may be set by states and counties, and agreements between landowners and developers may also set additional requirements. Adopting siting or zoning standards helps ensure that solar development is supported by local residents, Kolbeck-Urlacher said.
“It’s important for local governments to plan ahead for solar teardown and create ordinances that spell out expectations and obligations,” Kolbeck-Urlacher said. “This ensures that the financial responsibility for decommissioning rests with the project owner and not the county and landowners.”
But it is not only the financial aspect of the dismantling that must be taken into account, but what happens to the equipment.
The Centre’s new “Solar Energy System Decommissioning Resource Guide” outlines several management options, including extending the performance period through reuse, refurbishment or repowering of the facility or complete shutdown of operations and decommissioning of the project. It also offers recommendations on the information to include in decommissioning plans.
According to the US Department of Energy, 75% of all US solar capacity was installed in the past five years. With a lifespan of 25 to 35 years, most panels are still operational. Even with a plan in place, the report stresses the importance of periodic revisions to the plan to account for necessary changes in cost estimates, technology and the availability of recycling services.
For more information or to view the Resource Guide on Decommissioning Solar Power Systems, visit cfra.org/publications.