Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Apex Clean Energy?

Apex Clean Energy is an American renewable energy company based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our company was founded with a singular focus: to accelerate the shift to clean energy.

Apex develops, constructs, owns, and operates wind, solar, and energy storage facilities across the country. Our team of over 400 employees has completed over 6,000 MW of projects—that’s enough energy to power over 2 million American homes annually. Our partners have included major utilities, large corporations with renewable energ goals, and even the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.

Why solar?

Over the past few years, demand for renewable energy has grown dramatically, driven in part by corporations with sustainability goals. More than 200 companies worldwide have made commitments to go 100% renewable. Because solar energy is clean, reliable, and affordable, it has earned the spot as the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world.

Are solar panels noisy?

Solar panels themselves are completely silent. Certain pieces of equipment on a solar farm do emit sound. Transportation and maintenance equipment—including cars, trucks, lawnmowers, and string trimmers—is a common source of noise on solar farms that most people are used to hearing elsewhere.

In addition to these sources, inverters and transformers on a solar farm will generate low levels of sound during the day when the sun is shining. The impact of this sound is negligible because the equipment is strategically placed in the center of properties hundreds of feet from residences to allow the sound to naturally dissipate.

What does a solar farm look like?

Solar arrays spend most of the day at a low angle and at their maximum tilt (sunrise/sunset) reach no more than 20 feet tall for double-panel arrays. Soul City Solar will likely be utilizing a single panel array with a maximum height of approximately 12ft tall at full tilt.

Because the vast majority of the Soul City Solar project area is screened by existing vegetation, the visibility of a solar farm to nearby residences is expected to be minimal. As development progresses and the project site plan is finalized, we will identify areas where the project may be visible and where additional setbacks or vegetative screening may be appropriate to minimize visibility.

Will this project raise my power bills?

The cost of electricity from solar has dropped by 90% since 2009, and it is now among the cheapest sources of electricity in many places across the United States. Utility-scale renewable energy prices are now significantly below those for coal and gas generation, and they are less than half the cost of nuclear. Building new utility-scale solar energy generation is even cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal plants. By adding more solar energy to their systems, utilities can help make sure that the consumer costs of energy remain stable, since they are not affected by fluctuating fuel prices.

Solar power also has the benefit of producing electricity during the times of day when demand and power costs are the highest. On a midsummer afternoon, for example, when homes and businesses are running their air conditioners at full power, a solar facility is generating at full power as well, which helps close the gap between electricity supply and electricity demand. This can have the effect of lowering electricity costs across the board.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "Documenting a Decade of Cost Declines for PV Systems

Where will the power generated from the project go?

The power from Soul City Solar will be delivered into the local Mississippi electrical grid through available transmission lines in Hinds County, helping to diversify the state's energy portfolio. This is the same pool that supplies all Mississippi consumers with electricity and power generated by the project can be used both locally and transmitted to where it is needed based on demand.

What happens if the solar farm goes out of use?

There are often concerns about what happens to a solar farm once it stops producing energy or if the owner goes out of business. Solar projects typically develop a decommissioning plan prior to construction that is funded by an irrevocable form of financial security to cover decommissioning costs. This ensures that money is always available to remove the solar farm if or when it is no longer operable and that those obligations are not borne by the host landowner or by taxpayers.

What happens to solar panels at the end of their life?

At the end of a solar facility’s useful life, estimated to be about 30 years on average, panels can be removed and either reused or recycled. Existing recycling programs are able to recover about 90% of the materials used in the panels, much of which is glass. In fact, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that the value of recovered materials could exceed $15 billion by 2050 and that the material recovered could be used to remanufacture two billion solar panels. The solar industry continues to improve recycling systems and protocols in anticipation of increased volume of solar panels in need of recycling in the future. 

Learn more from the Solar Energy Industries Association by reading their fact sheet here.

You can also see a map of current companies recycling solar panels and solar components from the Department of Energy at www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-manufacturing-map.

What happens on cloudy days?

Did you know that solar panels still produce between 10% and 25% of their typical output even on a cloudy day? Fortunately, Hinds County has some of the highest levels of annual sunlight in all of Mississippi, making it a cost-effective region for generating electricity from solar farms. Advanced tracking systems also enable solar panels to follow the sun throughout the day and maximize the amount of electricity generated.

Will anything be placed on my property without my permission?

Project components will only be sited on private properties whose owners sign a lease agreement with Soul City Solar. All agreements are fully voluntary between landowners and the project.

What happens to neighboring property values?

It is a common misconception that ground-mounted solar farms decrease nearby property values. Multiple studies have found that the value of properties near solar farms increased after the facilities were installed. Appraisal studies spanning multiple states have found that even properties adjoining solar farms match the value (within one percent) of similar properties that do not border solar farms.

Studies have also found that substantial benefits are flowing to communities where solar farms are located. A report by the University of North Carolina examined the economic impact of more than 100 solar projects in over 50 counties and found that solar facilities have increased the tax revenue from agricultural property by between 1,000% and 10,000%.

Learn more here.

Are solar panels safe?

Solar panels are safe and have proven beneficial to public health by displacing air pollution caused by fossil fuel electric generation, conserving clean water, and reducing the harmful impacts of climate change.

In fact, the health benefits created by the 20 GW of solar power that was installed in the United States through 2014 saved Americans about $890 million per year. (1) The amount of installed U.S. solar capacity has increased sevenfold since then. About 3 million American households now have residential solar systems safely operating on their homes.

The Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University conducted an exhaustive analysis of health and safety questions surrounding utility-scale solar energy projects, including concerns regarding toxicity, electromagnetic fields, fire safety, and electric shock potential. For each of these topics, they concluded that “the negative health and safety impacts of utility-scale PV development were shown to be negligible, while the public health and safety benefits of installing these facilities are significant and far outweigh any negative impacts.” (2)

(1) Ryan Wiser et al., “On the Path to SunShot: The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2016.

(2) North Carolina State University, NC Clean Energy Technology Center, “Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics,” May 2017.

Can solar panels catch fire?

Fires caused by solar equipment are rare and only occur if an improper connection or other electrical fire hazard is present. The majority (over three-quarters) of each solar panel’s weight is composed of nonflammable protective glass. Only a small portion of the panels’ materi­als are flammable, which prevents them from self-sustaining a significant fire.

In most circumstances, good system design, product selection, and installation procedures are enough to minimize the risk of fire to the greatest extent possible. These concerns are further addressed by product safety standards, National Electric Code provisions, and inspec­tions that take place prior to solar facility energization. Apex Clean Energy will also consult with local first responders to ensure they have the training, facility information, and equipment needed to respond in the unlikely event of a fire within the facility.

What are solar panels made out of?

There are two primary types of solar PV panels currently available for utility-scale solar energy facilities, which use different semiconductor materials to generate electricity from the sun.

Crystalline silicon panels are currently the most common type of panel and this is the type of panel planned for the Soul City Solar project. These types of panels use a crystal lattice of silicon atoms to convert sunlight into electricity. Silicon is the second most abundant material on Earth (after oxygen) and the most common semiconductor used in computer chips. It is nontoxic. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy, “Solar Voltaic Cell Basics”)

The other primary type of solar panel technology used today is called thin-film technology. Thin-film panels use cadmium telluride (CdTe) as the semiconductor material. CdTe is chemically stable, insoluble in water, and it has an extremely high melting point (1,906°F) and boiling point (1,922°F).

Thin-film solar panels are made by painting exceptionally thin layers of CdTe (about 3% of the thickness of a human hair) on glass, and then sandwiching the material under another layer of glass. CdTe is a stable crystalline compound formed from cadmium and tellurium. It behaves very differently than cadmium alone or other cadmium-based compounds.  All of these factors make it highly unlikely that cadmium will ever escape the panel. Furthermore, the vapor pressure of CdTe at ambient conditions is zero, so it is impossible for any vapors or dust to be generated when using CdTe PV modules.

Finally, there is simply so little CdTe in thin-film panels that even in modeled worst-case scenarios, the amount of cadmium that could theoretically leach into the soil from a thin-film solar energy facility would be far lower than the nation’s strictest health screening values and 400-6,000 times lower than the amount of cadmium that regularly leaches from common phosphate fertilizers used regularly by American farmers. To date, more than 50 peer reviewed papers from leading institutions around the world have confirmed the safety of CdTe solar technology during normal operation, fires, module breakage, and end-of-life recycling and disposal.

(Source 1: V. Fthenakis and K. Zweibel, “CdTe PV: Real and Perceived EHS Risks,” National Renewable Energy Lab (May 2003))

(Source 2: Sinha, Parikhit et al. “Fate and transport evaluation of potential leaching 
risks from cadmium telluride photovoltaics.” Environmental toxicology and chemistry vol. 31, 7 (2012), pp. 1670-5)

(Source 3: First Solar, “Sustainability Documents.”)