For a more complete explanation, including notes on capacity factors and so forth, I recommend Robert Hargraves post on the class blog. I don't have too much to add.
I'll just make a short list of things that surprised me:
- Somehow, I didn't expect the solar farm to be in a suburban neighborhood. I don't know why not, I just didn't expect it. You get to the installation on a lane off a typical suburban cul-de-sac.
- The sun trackers are quite intricate, and they move every ten minutes or so. The slight noise of the movement is the only sound. This is the quietest power plant I have ever visited!
- Most of the parts of the suntrackers (the things that hold and move the panels) are made in Vermont. The panels themselves are made in China, but the panels are less than half the cost of the installations.
- People walk their dogs around the edges of the solar field. It is still very much "part of the neighborhood."
- Each suntracker has an anemometer on it (easily visible in this picture of a suntracker panel in the horizontal position for an on-going test.) When the wind speed is above 30 mph, the panels are placed in a horizontal position to avoid damage. As Andrew Savage noted, however, high wind speeds are associated with storms and clouds. Therefore, moving the panels flat during high-wind incidents does not affect their long-range performance very much.
We are grateful to All Earth Renewables for hosting us, and also for their complete transparency on energy production.