Starting a solar farm can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful solar farm.
Importantly, a critical step in starting a solar farm is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.
14 Steps To Start a Solar Farm:
- Choose the Name for Your Solar Farm
- Develop Your Solar Farm Business Plan
- Choose the Legal Structure for Your Solar Farm
- Secure Startup Funding for Your Solar Farm (If Needed)
- Secure a Location for Your Business
- Register Your Solar Farm with the IRS
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Get a Business Credit Card
- Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
- Get Business Insurance for Your Solar Farm
- Buy or Lease the Right Solar Farm Equipment
- Develop Your Solar Farm Marketing Materials
- Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Solar Farm
- Open for Business
1. Choose the Name for Your Solar Farm
The first step to starting a solar farm is to choose your business’ name.
This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your own solar farm:
- Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
- Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
- Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your solar farm.
2. Develop Your Solar Farm Business Plan
One of the most important steps in starting a solar energy farm business is to develop your solar farm business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.
Your business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your solar farm.
- Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your solar farm and what type of solar farm you operate. For example, are you a photovoltaic power station, concentrating solar thermal power (CSP), or a concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) solar farm?
- Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the solar industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
- Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target market are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when purchasing products or services like the ones you will offer?
- Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
- Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
- Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer
- Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
- Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
- Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your solar farm? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
- Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
- Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
- Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
- What startup costs will you incur?
- How will your solar farm make money?
- What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
- Do you need to raise funding to launch your business?
3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Solar Farm
Next you need to choose a legal structure for your solar farm and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.
Below are the five most common legal structures:
1) Sole proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the owner of the solar farm and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small businesses. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to start a solar farm together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business.
The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.
3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for a solar farm include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.
4) C Corporation
A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for a solar farm is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.
5) S Corporation
An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.
Once you register your solar farm, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.
4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Solar Farm (If Needed)
In developing your solar farm business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business.
If so, the main sources of funding for a solar farm to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in a solar farm that they believe has high potential for growth.
5. Secure a Location for Your Business
The first step in finding a location for your solar company is to determine the amount of space you will need. You’ll need to calculate the square footage of the area you plan to use for the solar farm.
Once you have calculated the square footage, you’ll need to research potential locations that meet your needs. The best locations for solar farms are open areas with plenty of sunlight. You’ll also want to consider the availability of land, as well as any zoning or permitting requirements that may apply.
Finally, you’ll want to contact local officials to inquire about any potential restrictions or limitations on solar companies in the area.
6. Register Your Solar Farm with the IRS
Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.
Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.
7. Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to establish a bank account in your solar farm’ name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:
- Identify and contact the bank you want to use
- Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
- Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
- Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
8. Get a Business Credit Card
You should get a business credit card for your solar farm to help you separate personal and business expenses.
You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.
When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.
9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
In order to start your own solar farm business, you will need to obtain a number of licenses and permits. These include a license to operate the solar farm, a site development permit, and possibly other permits depending on the specifics of your project. You should reach out to your local government officials to learn more about the specific requirements in your area.
10. Get Business Insurance for Your Solar Farm
A solar farm can be a valuable asset, and it’s important to protect that asset with insurance. There are a few types of insurance you may need to operate a solar business, including:
- General liability insurance: This covers accidents and injuries that occur on your property. It also covers damages caused by your employees or products.
- Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.
- Property insurance: This covers damage to your property caused by fire, theft, or vandalism.
Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs.
11. Buy or Lease the Right Solar Farm Equipment
To run a solar farm, you will need solar panels, inverters, and a monitoring system. Solar panels are used to transform sunlight into electricity. Inverters convert the direct current (DC) power produced by the solar panels into an alternating current (AC) that can be used in homes and businesses. Monitoring systems allow you to keep track of all the important data that can affect how well your solar panels are running.
Other solar equipment you might need includes transformers, AC/DC disconnects, AC switchgear, and interconnection equipment.
12. Develop Your Solar Farm Marketing Materials
Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain customers to your solar farm.
The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:
- Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your solar farm. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
- Website: Likewise, a professional solar farm website provides potential customers with information about the products and/or services you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you.
- Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your solar farm.
13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Solar Farm
Solar farms often use complex software to track energy production of the solar panels installed. This is an important part of a solar farm because it ensures all panels work together to produce as much power as possible. Without this technology, different panels could produce varying amounts of energy, making it less efficient.
14. Open for Business
You are now ready to open your solar farm. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.
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How to Start a Solar Farm FAQs
It can be hard to start a solar farm, but there are many resources available to help you get started. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is a great resource for information on everything from policy to financing as well as project development. You can also find case studies and examples of solar farms that have been successfully built and operated.
If you're interested in starting a solar farm, but don't have any experience, there are a few things you can do. First, research the process of starting and running a solar farm. Second, reach out to other solar farmers for advice and guidance. There are many online forums and communities where solar farmers share advice and tips. Finally, attend workshops and seminars on solar farming. There are many events that offer training and education on all aspects of solar farming.
There are different types of solar farms, each with advantages and disadvantages. The most profitable of solar farm types are utility-scale solar farms. These are large solar farms that provide power to an entire town or city. They are more expensive to build than other solar farms, but they also generate more power.
There is a lot of variation in the solar farm cost. Costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, depending on the size and complexity of the project.
The primary driver of the total cost is the size of the project. A larger solar farm will have higher up-front costs due primarily to the requirement for more equipment. However, huge solar farms are often able to sell their electricity for a lower price per kilowatt-hour than smaller ones. Larger solar farms also take advantage of economies of scale and might be able to pay for the entire cost of construction in a few years.
On the other hand, smaller solar farms tend to have higher prices per kilowatt-hour because they sell their electricity on a spot market or have a contract with one buyer (i.e., a local utility). A small solar farm might take more than five years to pay for construction and meet other business expenses.
Ongoing expenses for a solar farm include the costs associated with maintaining the solar equipment. This includes costs such as labor and materials to perform maintenance. A few examples of ongoing expenses include clearing debris, mowing grass around panels, replacing worn-out tools and parts, and picking up litter near the panels.
A successful solar farm business makes money by selling the electricity it produces to utility companies. The utility companies then sell that clean energy to its customers. Additionally, many solar farms receive government subsidies or tax credits for producing renewable energy.
Solar farms can be profitable if they are well-managed and have access to good sunlight. First, the cost to manufacture solar panels has been dropping dramatically in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. In addition, many states offer tax incentives or rebates for businesses that install solar panels. Finally, the price of electricity continues to rise, making solar power an increasingly attractive option.
Some solar farms fail because of the lack of money to maintain them due to tax credit limits. Some fail because they're built on less suitable land. Others struggle because they don't have an organized business structure for the farm. Additionally, some fail because the solar farm business owner doesn't consider the impact technology advancements could have on the business.