Anytime I travel, I always try to incorporate historical sites or some other destination on my itinerary that permits an opportunity to learn something while out and about. Recently, on a trip to California, I had the opportunity to visit a mammoth solar farm. This proved to be one of the most interesting side trips in all of my travels in recent years.
Steel and Solar Farms
One of the first things I learned while on my tour of a solar farm was how important steel is when it comes to alternative energy resources, including a solar farm. I discovered that steel is important in the design and fabrication of certain types of solar panels. It is also utilized in the structures on which the solar panels are placed in many cases.
Steel pipes also play a role in the overall operation of solar farms. For example, at the solar farm I visited, the solar panels heat up a liquid that is transported via steel pipes to a turbine generator.
I also came to understand that utilization of steel itself also aids in bettering the environment. Steel represents one of the most widely recycled materials in the world. In fact, anything that contains steel is almost certain to contain recycled material.
The vast amount of steel utilized in this day and age is recycled. The recycling process significantly lowers the amount of energy expended to manufacture items made from that metal. That includes steel pipes and other items utilized in the construction and operation of a solar farm.
Solar Energy Statistics in the United States
While on my tour of a large solar farm, I was provided intriguing information about the use of solar energy in the United States at this juncture in time. One of the most important pieces of data involves the fact that solar energy has become far more affordable in recent years. This includes solar energy generated via panels installed on buildings as well as that generated at solar farms, like the facility I visited while traveling.
Generally speaking, the cost of solar panels of different types has dropped by about 60 percent in the past decade. In addition, the cost associated with a solar electric system has dropped by about 50 percent during the same time period.
The decrease in costs associated with all aspects of solar energy has resulted in an increase in the use of this type of energy resource. Since 2008, installations os solar energy resources has increased seventeen-fold from 1.2 gigawatts to about 30 gigawatts at this point in time.
Touring a Solar Farm with a Family
Not only did I tour a solar farm while on vacation, my entire family enjoyed the incredible experience. The solar farm we visited offered an array of different opportunities for visitors, depending on their ages. For example, my children, including two elementary students and one in high school, were able to obtain age-appropriate information about the solar energy industry and the solar farm we specifically visited. In addition, the solar farm we visited provided some specific activities designed to address the questions of my younger children. They most definitely were not left on the sidelines when it came to resources for them while visiting a solar farm.
Scheduling a Tour of a Solar Farm
Most solar farms are able to provide a person who shows up without a reservation with a facility tour. However, in nearly all situations, solar farms prefer that a person interested in touring a facility make a tour reservation in advance. Typically, a solar farm will take tour reservations both over the phone and via its internet website.
Because demand for tours of solar farms is growing, you are best served by scheduling a tour well in advance of your planned trip. Indeed, scheduling a tour two or three months in advance is a solid strategy to ensure that you will be able to visit a solar farm while on your trip.
The largest solar farms in operation in the United States are in California and the Southwest. There are a growing number of installations to be found in these regions of the country.
There was no cost to visit the solar farm. In addition, at the end of the tour, we had access to an information center at which we were able to purchase different items and materials to remember our trip and to learn more about this renewable energy resource. This included items suitable for people of all ages.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.