Large Scale Solar

What is Large Scale Solar?

A photovoltaic power station, also known as a solar park, is a large-scale photovoltaic system (PV) designed for the supply of merchant power into the electricity grid. They are differentiated from most building-mounted and other decentralized solar power applications because they supply power at the utility level, rather than to a local user or users. They are sometimes also referred to as solar farms or solar ranches, especially when sited in agricultural areas. The generic expression utility-scale solar is sometimes used to describe this type of project.

The power conversion source is via photovoltaic modules that convert light directly to electricity. This differs from the other large-scale solar generation technology, concentrated solar power, which uses heat to drive a variety of conventional generator systems. Both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages, but to date, for a variety of reasons, the PV-based systems have seen much wider use in the field. As of 2013, PV systems outnumber concentrators by about 30 to 1.

Most of the existing large-scale photovoltaic power stations are owned and operated by independent power producers, but the involvement of community- and utility-owned projects is increasing. To date, almost all have been supported at least in part by regulatory incentives such as feed-in tariffs or tax credits, but capital costs have fallen significantly in the last decade and are expected to progressively reach grid parity, when external incentives may no longer be required.

Construction Compound

The development of a large scale solar array will require the delivery and storage of construction materials, plant, machinery and office welfare accommodation. It is therefore likely that a temporary construction compound will be required. Such compounds should be carefully located in order to minimize environmental or amenity impact and any planning application should contain details of their size and location. Topsoil and subsoil should be stripped from such areas and stored on site for replacement following the completion of construction works. Details of such soil stripping, storage and replacement should be contained within any planning application, together with thebe contained within any planning application, together with the anticipated life of the construction compound.

construction compound

Soil stripping, Storage and Replacement

The development of a large scale solar installation is likely to require the excavation of soils associated with construction compounds, access roads, cable trenching etc. Where such soil stripping occurs topsoil and subsoil should be stripped, stored and replaced separately in order to minimise soil damage and to provide optimal conditions for site restoration. Any planning application should contain a methodology for soil stripping, storage and replacement and this methodology should subsequently be adhered to during site development.

Soil Stripping

Access Tracks

Solar panel facilities which are developed on agricultural land should:
  • aim to minimise disturbance to the agricultural land;
  • be temporary, capable of removal and ‘reversible’; and
  • minimise their landscape/visual impact and their impact on the rural scene.
The installation and use of access tracks should therefore be kept to an absolute minimum. One track linking the inverters may be necessary as a minimum to enable exchange of inverters and replacement of heavy machinery. Agricultural vehicles, including tractors, quad bikes and 4WD, should be capable of servicing the facilities on a daily basis without the need to construct access tracks through the site.
A buffer strip of larger than 5 metres between hedges and solar panels is desirable to promote ecological and biodiversity opportunities if it can be achieved.

Security Fencing / Lighting

Applicants will be expected to direct considerable effort towards minimising the landscape/visual impact of solar PV arrays. Whilst there is an acknowledged need to ensure solar PV installations are adequately secured it would be unfortunate if such security measures resulted in an unacceptable landscape/visual impact. Applicants should:
  • minimise the use and height of security fencing;
  • utilise existing features, such as hedges or landscaping, to screen security fencing;
  • use natural features, such as vegetation planting, to assist in site security;
  • minimise the use of security lighting. Any lighting should utilize a passive infra-red (PIR) technology and should be designed and installed in a manner which minimises glare, light pollution and impacts on biodiversity.
  • ensure that appropriate measures are in place to facilitate continued access by larger mammals, such as badgers and foxes. In some instances specialist fencing may be necessary in order to prevent access by deer. Such deer fencing can be much less intrusive than other forms of fencing and should be considered where possible.
Planning applications should contain full details and specifications of all security and lighting installations in order to allow an accurate landscape / visual / ecological assessment of the proposal to be made.
Where pole mounted CCTV facilities are proposed the location of these facilities should be carefully considered in order to minimise visual / landscape impact. In exposed landscapes such structures should be avoided where possible.

Soil Stripping

Ground Maintenance

Vegetation will grow under the solar panels and this will require management, particularly to avoid the site becoming overgrown with noxious weeds and assist with the eventual restoration of the site, normally to agriculture. There are various techniques for managing the vegetation, these include mowing, trimming, spraying or mulching. Spraying should be avoided wherever possible and mulching large areas is likely to present technical challenges and may add to the landscape / visual impact of a development proposal. Few of these management techniques are regarded as sustainable, particularly on sites up to 15ha, and there is a desire, both in terms of food production and the rural scene, to continue an agricultural use on the site. During those times of the year when growth requires managing grazing is to be encouraged wherever practicable. Cattle, horses, pigs and goats are likely to be too ‘physical’ with the solar arrays but sheep, chickens or geese should be acceptable. In order to facilitate grazing within the solar farm it is advised that solar panels are positioned at least 700mm above ground level and all cabling etc is suitably protected.

Some of G-teck’s crew has several years of experience in the LSPV(Large Scale Photo Voltaic) where they were acquiring land, planning, sizing, and designing installation for several solar installations in Spain, Bulgaria, Germany, Belgium and Italia.
Here are pictures from 2 installations in Italy.

Italy Installation
Casale solar park, Lazio; near Rome, Italy.
Built in 2009 (3,3MW) Built by Siemens Solar with Sharp solar modules and Siemens inverters
Italy Installation
Borgo solar park, Lazio, Near Rome, Italy, (3,5MW).
Built 2010 by Phoenix Solar with Trina solar modules, and SMA inverters.
They were also designing, fabricating and installing the mounting systems used for 5 IKEA roof top installations in Europe.

G-teck will tailor a PV solution to your projects specific requirements.
We offer a full range of modules, varying in size and output, ensuring the most cost-effective design to meet your needs. We can provide PV module output from 150Wp to 310Wp with a full range of inverter solutions.

As has been widely reported, the Government is seeking to implement large scale solar (over 5MWp) to ensure a complete scheme of clean energy in Uganda.
The plan will offer incentives for large solar power schemes over 5MW by a GET - FIT top off scheme to top up the PPA offered by UETCL for the first 5 years.
Did you know that an agreed PPA with UETCL will represent a very lucrative investment opportunity for farm buildings, small ground based systems and your home. As a land owner or farmer, you are in the perfect position for harvesting solar energy from the sun.


A solar photovoltaic system is well worth serious consideration. It offers:
  • Realistic returns on capital of typically 10% or more, indexed linked, often tax free, for the 20 years duration of the PPA.
  • Reduces the carbon footprint of your business.
  • It is a non labour intensive income, thus it will not divert your attention away from your core business, whilst significantly reducing your electricity bills where daytime electricity consumption is high, because you consume your own electricity on site in preference to buying from the utilities provider.

Solar PV in Africa

South Africa has become the tenth-largest global market for utility scale solar, according to data compiled by solar watchdog Wiki-Solar.
Across the country, 15 large-scale solar PV plants of 4 MW or more generate 503 MW of solar PV annually, placing South Africa tenth overall.
The list is as follows:
  1. U.S.A, which has 349 utility scale solar PV plants generating a combined total of 6,498 MW.
  2. China, with 4,607 MW
  3. Germany (3,428 MW)
  4. India (1,897 MW)
  5. Spain rounding out the top five with 1,680 MW.
  6. The U.K.'s surging utility scale sector currently boasts a cumulative capacity of 1,523 MW
  7. Italy (875 MW)
  8. Canada (714 MW)
  9. France (677 MW)
  10. South Africa (503MW)

South Africa’s encouraging performance is largely a result of the government's renewable energy independent power producer program (REIPPP), which although off to a slow start has seen more than 60 MW of large-scale solar capacity added in the past month.
Round 1 of the REIPPP still sees a handful of further projects under development, with round 2 and 3 in the pipeline suggesting South Africa could top 1 GW within the next nine months. The Department of Energy has released figures revealing that there are 17 preferred bidders in the third round of the REIPPP, with 47 projects signed off altogether for Rounds 1 and 2.
"France and Italy's position in the top ten may soon be under threat," said Wiki-Solar's chief researcher, Philip Wolfe. "Substantial pipelines of projects, not just in South Africa but also in Japan and Chile, suggest that these countries will soon be contenders for a place in the top ten."
Allied to wind and CSP power, South Africa is likely to boast 3,900 MW of renewable energy once the REIPPP reaches its conclusion.

South Africa Installation
Scatec (75WM in South Africa). Commissioned Nov 2013 and the largest solar installation in Africa to date.

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Plot 349, Katale, Seguku

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