Key takeaways


xcitement is in the air in the renewable energy industry due to a groundbreaking innovation from an up-and-coming solar startup. Hailing from California, Planted Solar has designed a terrain-following array technology that could potentially change how we capture solar power, promising to deliver twice as much energy output per acre.

This pioneering concept is already drawing significant funding from the government and private sectors, making it a hopeful contender in our quest for greener and more efficient energy solutions. But how exactly does it work, and what makes it so promising? SunValue reviews the technology so you can grasp the details.

Next-Gen Solar Array Design

Classic solar systems generally demand flat surfaces, hence the lengthy and costly necessity for land grading. Planted Solar, however, has come up with a unique resolution with solar panels that harmonize with the natural ups and downs of the landscape.

The advanced design tackles some of the major problems in the solar market, including the lack of land and interconnections, a shortage of proficient workers, and the need for quicker solar plant development. Their approach involves the use of a high-density array positioned firmly above the ground, offering a simpler, more dependable, and sustainable way for solar power generation.

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A Detailed Look at What's New

Embracing Natural Terrain

Unlike conventional fixed-tilt or tracker-based solar installations, Planted Solar's high output PV panels are innovatively designed to align with the natural landscape. This method sidesteps the need for extensive land leveling and civil engineering tasks, which reduces both the overall costs of installation and the environmental footprint. The arrays can handle slopes as steep as 27%, opening up opportunities to use lands typically considered unfit for solar farm deployment.

Unique Assembly to Maximize Land Use

The arrays from Planted Solar are closely assembled, resembling a blanket laid over the terrain. This compact configuration allows the company to generate a megawatt of power using merely two acres, as opposed to the usual five acres required by traditional solar farms.

Using land more effectively is what makes this fresh approach so appealing to the industry. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation needs more than 10 million acres of solar development to meet its clean energy goals by 2050. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has an even higher estimate, suggesting 22 million acres will be necessary for solar panels.

Advanced Robotics and Software

Another unique feature that sets Planted Solar apart is their use of construction robots. Guided by sophisticated software, these robots can handle the entire assembly and installation of the most efficient solar panels. The automated process not only speeds up project completion by three times but also cuts down on labor costs and reduces the chance of human mistakes. Once the digital design of a power plant is completed, the robots get their instructions and start building the arrays, guaranteeing precision and the best solar efficiency.

solar farms

Assembly robots working on-site. Source: Planted Solar

Superior Energy Yield, Shrinking Costs

Planted Solar claims that its terrain-adapting panels can produce twice as much energy per acre as traditional systems. This superior energy density is made possible by a high inverter loading ratio (ILR) and the incorporation of standard, inexpensive solar panels. By placing the panels closer and following the natural geography, Planted Solar boosts solar array efficiency and ensures maximum energy production per unit area.

Thanks to the innovative design, there's a 50% drop in balance of system (BoS) costs, which include all the necessary components and expenses beyond the solar panels. This is achieved by cutting down on installation time, using fewer materials, and simplifying land preparation.

Environmental and Operational Benefits

Beyond its economic perks, Planted Solar's technology provides numerous environmental benefits. By avoiding heavy land leveling, the technology helps preserve the natural terrain and reduces soil erosion —a crucial aspect when dealing with projects on steep terrains or in environmentally sensitive areas.

Additionally, the layout of these arrays simplifies managing greenery and handling upkeep. Modules can be replaced from underneath the array using an access cart, making the maintenance chore much smoother and time-efficient.

Financial Backing

Planted Solar has attracted noteworthy financial support, securing $20 million in Series A funding from influential investors such as Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Khosla Ventures. Moreover, the company received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).

Carmichael Roberts from Breakthrough Energy Ventures believes Planted Solar's pioneering technology will be key in speeding up the world's shift towards clean energy. He commented, "The company's unique combination of software, robotics, and simplified hardware design has the potential to transform the solar power plant development and construction industry and make solar energy more accessible, affordable, and sustainable than ever before."

Rajesh Swaminathan, partner at Khosla Ventures, shared his excitement. "Planted Solar’s technology, which combines advanced robotics with ingenious system design, exemplifies the kind of radical innovation and relentless pursuit of efficiency that the solar industry needs. Their approach is a reinvention of the solar deployment paradigm, ensuring rapid and scalable energy solutions to improve lives around the world," he said.

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Future Prospects

The innovative technology has already attracted the attention of industry players. Planted Solar has recently partnered with Cultivate Power, a solar and storage development company, to set up an 11 MW project portfolio in the Chicago area. This partnership is all about blending solar power effortlessly with the local landscape and agricultural activities, highlighting how flexible and adaptable Planted Solar's technology really is.

Looking ahead, the company plans to move from pilot projects to larger portfolios, which will let them carry out numerous projects at the same time. Moreover, they aim to go global, bringing their cutting-edge solutions to international markets.


Planted Solar's terrain-following arrays are truly taking solar to the next level. They address some of the most pressing issues in the field—like land use, installation expenses, and environmental effects. Using robots and high-density designs, the new solution delivers more energy at lower costs, making solar power easier to access and better for the planet.

For green technology enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, Planted Solar's innovations offer a glimpse into the future of renewable energy. As the company grows and rolls out its technology in real-world projects, it's going to be exciting to see how their terrain-following approach changes the solar game.


Key takeaways

  • Planted Solar's terrain-following solar arrays adapt to natural landscapes, eliminating the need for costly land grading.
  • These arrays can generate a megawatt of power using just two acres, compared to traditional systems that require five acres, optimizing land use.
  • Utilization of advanced robotics and software speeds up installation, reduces labor costs, and ensures precise array placement.
  • Claimed to produce twice as much energy per acre as conventional systems due to high inverter loading ratio (ILR) and strategic panel placement.
  • Achieves a 50% reduction in balance of system (BoS) costs by minimizing land preparation and using cost-effective solar panels.
  • Environmental benefits include preserving natural terrain, reducing soil erosion, and simplifying maintenance with innovative access methods.
Jun 21, 2024
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