Transforming your lawn into a mini solar farm can reduce your energy bills while also helping the environment. With some planning and investment, your backyard can become a renewable energy source. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to turn your lawn into a mini solar farm.
Assessing Your Lawn’s Solar Potential
The first step is to analyze if your lawn has good solar exposure. Ideal conditions for a solar farm include:
- A south-facing yard without obstructions like trees or buildings blocking sunlight. North-facing yards will produce less energy.
- At least 1,000 square feet of unshaded lawn space. More space allows more solar panels.
- Limited shade from fences, trees or poles throughout the day. Any shade reduces energy production.
- No homeowners association rules prohibiting solar panels. Some neighborhoods have restrictions.
- No city regulations against residential solar farms. Verify rules with your local government.
Use a Solar Pathfinder or similar tool to map sunlight across your lawn over the course of a day. This will identify prime solar real estate.
Choosing a Solar Panel System
Next, determine what type of solar system to install on your mini solar farm:
- Fixed Tilt Solar Panels: Panels are mounted at a fixed angle, typically facing south. Simplest option requiring no seasonal adjustments.
- Single-Axis Trackers: Panels rotate on a single axis to follow the sun’s path, boosting energy capture. More complex and expensive.
- Dual-Axis Trackers: Panels move in two directions for maximum sunlight exposure. Highest efficiency but require more maintenance.
For most homeowners, fixed tilt systems provide the best value. Tracker systems generate more energy but have higher hardware and maintenance costs.
When selecting panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the most efficient options. Compare panel wattages, warranties, prices and aesthetics when choosing a product.
Calculating How Many Solar Panels You Need
The number of solar panels needed depends on three factors:
- Your energy usage – How much power does your household consume monthly? Review electricity bills to determine average usage.
- Panel wattage – The more watts a panel produces, the fewer you may need. Standard panels range from 250-400 watts.
- Available lawn space – Panels require roughly 15-25 sq. ft. each. Measure usable lawn area to fit the right number.
As an example, if your home uses 800 kWh monthly and you install 300W panels on 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn, you would need around 19 panels ([800 kWh * 1000] / [300W * 30 sq. ft. per panel] = 19 panels).
Use an online solar calculator to determine your ideal system size.
Getting Your Solar Mini Farm Installed
Installing a residential solar farm takes careful planning but can be a manageable DIY project for some homeowners.
Key steps include:
- Acquiring building permits for your system.
- Ordering solar panels along with racking, inverters and wiring.
- Grading and preparing the installation site.
- Mounting racking into the ground or concrete footings.
- Attaching solar panels securely onto racks.
- Connecting panels into strings and linking to combiner boxes.
- Running underground wires to your electrical panel.
- Getting a final inspection before operation.
Alternatively, hiring a solar installer simplifies the process with their expertise but adds cost. Compare multiple installer quotes before choosing one.
Maintaining and Operating Your Solar Farm
Once the mini solar farm is up and running, perform routine maintenance like:
- Cleaning dust and dirt off solar panels occasionally.
- Trimming any new vegetation blocking sunlight.
- Checking wiring and connections for damage.
- Monitoring energy production with a performance meter.
To maximize self-consumption of solar energy, schedule high electricity usage during sunny midday hours when possible. Exporting excess solar energy to the grid can also earn bill credits or payments in some areas.
With minimal upkeep, a home solar array typically lasts 25-30 years or longer. Your lawn solar farm can provide clean renewable power for decades to come!
Estimating the Costs and ROI on a Mini Solar Farm
Installing an array of solar panels on your lawn requires an upfront investment. However, with available tax credits and long-term energy savings, a home solar farm can pay for itself within 5-10 years.
- The average cost per watt for a residential solar system ranges from $2.50 to $3.50 depending on system size, panels and location.
- Expect to pay $10,000 to $30,000 for a typical 5 kilowatt to 10 kilowatt system.
- The payback period to recoup costs averages around 8 years.
- Federal tax credits cover 26% of solar system costs through 2032. State/local incentives may also apply.
- Monthly electric bill savings from generating your own solar power accelerates the payback timeline.
- With incentives, you could start saving money in year one of operation.
Consult a solar specialist for a detailed cost assessment and ROI analysis on a solar farm for your specific property. They can highlight the incentives available and projected energy offset.
Over the system lifetime, your mini solar farm can save tens of thousands in electricity costs while reducing your carbon footprint. The green energy produced right in your backyard provides value beyond just dollars and cents as well.