California has been at the forefront of solar energy in the United States in the past few years, thanks to some pretty strong clean-energy policies that have encouraged many businesses and homeowners to install solar power systems in order to increase the amount of energy received from renewable sources. Now, with a new large scale solar project officially underway in South California, the state is bound to further strengthen its position as a solar energy leader, and give a major boost to its production of electricity through clean sources.
Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown, accompanied by several other state officials and Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of Interior, opened the Desert Sunlight solar farm in the Riverside County desert, which is said to be the world’s largest solar plant.
It is a 550-megawatt solar farm that was built by First Solar, one of America’s leading manufacturer of photovoltaic systems, and it has the capacity to meet the energy needs of up to 160,000 households in California. The project was supported by the government, through its federal loan program, which gave California a loan of about $1.5 billion. The plant is built on federal land of about 4,000 acres, and it is owned by GE Energy Financial Services, NextEra Energy Resources and Sumitomo Corporation of America. It is comprised of about 8 million photovoltaic panels. According to the Department of Energy, the plant is expected to make a profit of about $5 to $6 billion.
“Solar projects like Desert Sunlight are helping create American jobs, develop domestic renewable energy and cut carbon pollution,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
This project comes after Governor Jerry Brown has asked on several occasions for an increase in production of green electricity by up to 50% by 2030, a considerably more ambitious target than the current one, calling for 33% by 2020.
The Desert Sunlight farm will have a significant environmental impact, as it is expected to cut greenhouse gas emission by 300,000 tons, which would have the same effect as taking about 60,000 cars off the road.
This is the latest in a series of projects launched in California recently, aimed at accelerating the growth of solar energy in the state. In late 2014, the Topaz Solar farm was built in San Luis Obispo County, which just like Desert Sunlight, has a capacity of 550-megawatt and was also built by the same company – First Solar. Before Desert Sunlight was formally opened, the Topaz farm was officially the world’s largest solar plant, spanning on a surface of 9.5 square miles.
With so much investment in solar energy and other clean sources, California has become the nation’s leader in renewable energy adoption, and produces more electricity from renewable sources than any other state. In the future, utilities are expected to ramp up investments in solar projects, as they try to comply with federal mandates that require more energy to be produced by solar panels and other green technologies, in an effort to reduce electricity generation through coal.
Jordan Perch is a transport analyst and expert in consumer affairs for the automotive industry. He is an author on topics related to public transport, specifically the use of ride-sharing and car-sharing services, and their impact on mass transit. He is a regular contributor to SolarFeeds, the IHS GlobalSpec and DMV.com’s blog and a proud owner of a Tesla Model S.