It’s no big leap to expect solar power to become a major driving force within the global renewable energy sector. It’s already experienced exponential growth within the last two years, particularly with advancing technology decreasing the huge costs related to setting up solar infrastructures.
While many countries, like South Africa and Italy, are investing in increasing these kinds of power plants, the United States still dominates in the arena of solar powered plants that dwarf others in size. Here are some of the largest enterprises is solar-power generation on the globe:
- The Topaz Project – This is the largest solar power plant in the world. It boasts a 550 MW capacity and is currently fully operational in California. This incredible plant has over 9 million solar panels, with construction taking a little over two years. This infrastructure is able to power between 110 000 to 160 000 households when the sun is shining. The San Luis Obispo county population totals around 276 000, so it may in fact result in the majority of the county being able to be powered by a single power plant. This infrastructure is also growing towards energy storage, where excess electricity can be stored at night for use when the sun is obstructed by overcast weather. In terms of workforce, this initiative created over 400 construction jobs and was a big boost to the local economy of the area. It also reduced the generation of over 377 000 tons of CO2 on a yearly basis.
- The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System – This is also situated in California, just 64km from Las Vegas and has an impressive capacity of 392MW. The Unit 1 was connected to the grid in 2013 and formally opened its operations in February 2014. This solar thermal power plant cost over $2.2bn, with one of the main contributions coming from Google, at $168mn. When in the planning stages this facility scaled back in order to take into account other environmental concerns, in particular to avoid building right on top of the natural habitat of the desert tortoise.
- The Solana Generating Station – Finally, this solar power plant is located in Arizona, just southwest of Phoenix and its name literally means “sunny spot” in Spanish. Construction was completed in 2013 and at the time it was commissioned it was the first U.S. solar station with molten salt thermal energy storage. This enterprise has a total capacity of 280MW and can power over 70 000 households.
It’s important that across the world, integrated solar power producers are encouraged and welcomed by nations. It’s critical that we move towards delivering a range of alternative energy solutions that are sustainable to all of the continents, including Africa.