Solar energy is one of the major alternatives sources of energy that is expected to help in significantly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels for power generation. In recent years, solar power plants are being increasingly installed by many countries across the world to cut harmful emissions and increase clean energy contribution to their energy mix.
Finite fossil fuels and vast availability of sunlight are the driving forces behind large scale adoption of solar energy in the past several years. Though their expensive to set up, solar farms hold a huge potential to reduce the use of coal for power generation. Recent advancements in energy storage technologies have boosted the confidence in reliability of solar energy.
Here are the world’s largest solar plants:
Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India: The 1,000MW capacity solar park is a solar park spread over a total area of 5,932.32 acres in Panyam mandal of Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India. The project is being implemented by a joint venture of the Solar Energy Corporation of India, Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation and the New & Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh. SunPower, Softbank Energy, Azure Power and Adani Power were the companies that won contracts from Indian energy conglomerate National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to develop the massive solar park.
Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, Qinghai: Located at the Longyangxia Dam hydropower station on the Yellow River in Gonghe County in Qinghai province, China, the 850MW solar park is spread over 9.16sq km of land. It has a capacity to generate enough electricity to power 200,000 households. The park was constructed a cost of about 6bn yuan (£721.3m). The Guardian reported that the project was built with a cost of about 6 bn yuan (£721.3m), with construction beginning in 2013.
Image: Satellite picture of Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China. Photo courtesy of USGS/NASA Landsat/Wikipedia.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai: The 800MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will be located on a 16km2 site and it will be delivered in three stages. Phase A, which is 200MW, is presently under construction and is scheduled for completion in next April. The 300MW Phase B is expected to begin in April 2019 and finally, Phase C is expected to start in April 2020. Masdar aims to further develop the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park into the single largest site in the world with a capacity of 5GW by 2030. Total investment is estimated to reach $14bn. When complete, the solar plant could be able to offset as much as 6.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Park, India: The 750MW Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Park will be located in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India. The project is led by Rewa Ultra Mega Solar, which is a joint venture between the Solar Energy Corp of India (SECI) and Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam (MPUVN). The projects are expected to contribute to India's ambition of generating 100GW of solar energy by 2022 and to offset a million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The project which comprises of three solar plants of 250MW each is being considered as one of the biggest single site solar projects in the world.
Image: IFC to support India in the development of 750MW solar plants. Photo: Courtesy of start08/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Solar Star Projects, California: The 579MW Solar Star project is currently one of the largest solar power project in the world, covering 3,230 acres. The Solar Star development includes two projects co-located in Kern and Los Angeles counties. Construction on the project was commenced in early 2013 by SunPower and was completed in June 2015. Solar Star projects will have more than 1.7 million monocrystalline silicon modules manufactured by SunPower. Southern California Edison signed two long-term power purchase contracts to purchase electricity generated from the projects.
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, California: With an operating capacity of 550MW, Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is located in the Riverside County in California. Desert Sunlight Holdings, a subsidiary of First Solar was the developer of the solar-photovoltaic (PV) facility. The solar farm generates enough energy to power more than 160,000 homes and reduce 300,000mt of greenhouse emissions per year. It is owned by NextEra Energy Resources, GE Energy Financial Services, and Sumitomo Corporation of America. The facility features First Solar's thin film PV technology, which generates electricity with low visual impact, no air emissions, waste production or water use. Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric agreed to purchase 250MW and 300MW clean energy respectively from the solar plant for 20 years.
Image: First Solar Desert Sunlight Solar Farm. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior/Wikipedia.
Topaz Solar Farms, California: Located in San Luis Obispo County, California, Topaz Solar Farms is a 550MW plant built by First Solar. The power generated from the plant is enough to meet electricity needs of 160,000 homes. Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, Pacific Gas and Electric Company agreed to purchase the electricity from the Topaz project about six years ago. The Topaz project, which features First Solar's advanced thin-film PV modules, offsets 377,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.