If you are in the solar industry, you may have already known that solar farms or plants can last 20 to 25 years!
Even more important is, after becoming that old, these farms will never be abandoned; rather, they would be fully functional and productive.
Besides, the installed solar panels can last 40 or 50 years! It sounds like an eternity. That is the beauty of natural energy like solar power.
Another interesting fact is that California, in the US, has brought about a revolution in the country’s solar industry.
California ranked No.1 in solar installations with 3.3 GW installed in 2018, and it receives nearly 14% of its electricity from solar.
The US has some of the largest, most beautiful, and productive solar farms in the world. In this post, we have made a list of the top 10 solar farms in the country that are driving the US solar industry forward.
Let’s take a look at the list of the largest solar farms in the United States here:
Solar Star, Kern, and Los Angeles Counties
Solar Star is the largest solar farm in the US. When the farm was set up on June 2015, it was the biggest solar farm in the world.
Solar Start has 1.7 million solar panels spread out in more than 13 square kilometres in Kern and Los Angeles Counties, California. That is nearly the size of 142 football fields or 4 times the size of Central Park!
The project is divided based on two separate installations — Solar Star 1 and Solar Star 2. The first one has a capacity of 314MW and the second one has 265MW.
Overall, Solar Star generates 579 MW of energy, which is enough to provide electricity to almost 255,000 households.
Building this solar farm created nearly 650 jobs over three years. Also, as reported by “CleanTechnica,” Solar Star had created 40 maintenance jobs, including 15 full-time site positions, during its lifetime.
Here are a few more facts about the Solar Star project, collected from the California Energy Commission:
- Solar Star was established on an altered land. It means that the land had already been altered or used by people.
- The solar panels on the farm get cleaned up automatically by using minimal water.
- The solar panels use a single-axis tracker to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day. This feature makes the panels nearly 25% more efficient than motionless panels.
- The net environmental impact of this project is significant. The solar output of this farm is taking 108,000 cars off the road annually.
The Solar Star project was started in 2013 and completed in 2015. After it was completed, the farm has more than 1.7 million solar panels, was already producing more than 170 MW to the California grid.
Solar Star has completed its fourth year in June 2019, and it is still the largest solar farm in the country in terms of power generated. Other solar farms that are closer to Solar Star do not have the same kind of efficiency per area, based on their location and technological prowess.
Topaz Solar Farm, Carrizo Plain of San Luis Obispo County, California
Topaz solar farm is located on the Carrizo Plain of San Luis Obispo County, California.
The construction of the project started in November 2011, and on February 2015, all the construction activities were completed.
The solar farm is spread out over the area of more than 15 square kilometres and provides enough power for 160,000 homes.
The capacity of the Topaz solar farm is 580 MW, and when operating at full capacity, it produces enough electricity to power nearly 180,000 households.
A study by the BHE shows that the production capacity of Topaz farm is enough to displace around 407,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is equivalent to taking 77,000 cars off the road.
The solar modules in the Topaz solar farm are mounted together on panels that are supported by steel columns. The structure holds the modules about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the ground.
Rows of panels are laid in a way that appears like large geometric shapes and is defined in part through access roads and stream beds.
The northernmost part of the solar farm, which is nearby to a transmission line, was the first to have been built.
The economic benefits this farm provides include an estimated $417 million in positive impacts, such as property and sales tax revenues for the County, wages from direct/indirect employment, induced spending and supply chain revenues.
Ivanpah Solar, Clark Mountain in California
The Ivanpah Solar is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the Mojave Desert and stretches five square miles. It is located at the base of Clark Mountain in California.
The $2.2 billion facilities were developed by BrightSource Energy and Bechtel. The largest investor in the project was NRG Energy which contributed $300 million.
The solar farm has a total capacity of 392 MW. It has deployed 173,500 heliostats, each with two mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers placed on three centralized solar power towers.
The first unit of the solar plant was connected to the electrical grid in September 2013 for an initial synchronization test.
The facility officially opened on February 13, 2014, and in the same year, it became the largest solar thermal power station in the world.
Many people, however, have also criticized this project for disrupting animal habitats and even “frying” birds that fly too close to the hot towers.
Nearly 300,000-plus mirrors that have been installed at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System capture sunshine almost 330 to 350 days per year.
The steam generated from the heated water towers spins turbines that produce enough to provide electricity to 140,000 households in California.
Agua Caliente Solar Project, Arizona
The Agua Caliente Solar Project has been set up in Yuma County, Arizona.
This solar farm is built on an earlier distributed agricultural land, 65 miles on the White Wing Ranch. That piece of land was chosen after a thorough search on the availability of solar resources.
The project required minimal new transmission infrastructure due to its strategic location. The construction of the project was completed in April 2014 and has a capacity of 290 MW.
The $1.8 billion solar projects were originally initiated by NextLight Renewable Power, which was acquired by First Solar in July 2010. In August 2011, NRG Energy took over the project from First Solar.
In fact, First Solar provided 5.2 million cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules for this solar project.
In the first phase of the project, 39 MW was online in December 2011, 100 MW was completed in April 2012, 200 MW was completed in July 2012, and 247 MW in August 2012.
The 2,400-acre facility can produce enough electricity for 230,000 households at peak loads.
When the Agua Caliente farm went live, it claimed the title of the largest solar farm in the world. Also, the project was named ‘Project of the Year’ by Excellence in Renewable Energy Award in February 2012.
The farm will also reduce 5.5 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Nevada
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is a concentrating solar power (CSP) farm that is constructed near Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada, US.
The farm is spread over 1,600 acres of public land administered by the US Bureau of Land Management. It has been designed for an operational life duration of 30 years.
This solar farm, with the capacity of 110MW, is the first utility-scale solar power plant in the US, which is fully integrated with energy storage technology. It is also the largest solar power facility in the world with storage. The cost of the project was $1 billion.
The Crescent Dunes Solar Project started in August 2011 with moderate construction activities.
Later, on February 2012, the project reached a major construction milestone, when the deployment of the central receiver solar power tower was completed. The 540 ft-tall tower is the tallest solar power tower in the world.
The commissioning phase of the project began in February 2014 after the construction was completed in 2015.
The plant is capable of generating nearly half a million megawatt-hours of emission-free electricity every year and can provide power to approximately 75,000 households.
The generated solar energy will also eliminate 290,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
The investors in this project include SolarReserve, the Spanish engineering and construction company ACS Cobra, and the Spanish banking firm Santander.
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm – Desert Center, California
The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is located about six miles north of the community of Desert Center. The capacity of this solar farm is 550 MW.
The co-owner of the solar farm are NextEra Energy Resources, GE Energy Financial Services, and Sumitomo Corporation of America.
Construction on the project started in September 2011. The farm provides support to California in its efforts toward generating one-third of its energy from renewable resources.
Desert Sunlight provides enough electricity to meet the needs of nearly 160,000 average households in California and can displace approximately 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
The project also created around 440 construction jobs over a period of 26 months, providing wages and benefits to workers.
Also, the project generated an estimated amount of $15 million in new sales tax revenues and $12 million in new property tax revenues for California.
Copper Mountain Solar Facility – Boulder City, Nevada
The Copper Mountain Solar photovoltaic (PV) solar farm is located in Boulder City, Nevada, nearly 65 km south-east of Las Vegas. The capacity of this solar farm is 552 MW.
Construction of this solar began in January 2010. It was completed in less than a year, and the plant went live in December 2010. The cost of building the project was $141million.
The solar farm started producing solar electricity after the installation of the first 8MW block of solar panels in 2010. The project achieved a major milestone by erecting 775,000 solar panels.
In March 2011, the solar farm was officially dedicated by the Nevada governor, Boulder City mayor, and the president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation.
Copper Mountain Solar Facility produces emission-free electricity to power almost 14,000 households. It is owned and managed by Sempra Generation, which is a subsidiary of Sampa Energy, San Diego.
The local, state and federal governments will receive $135 million in new revenue from this project during the lifetime of this project.
Also, during the project, nearly 350 construction jobs and five full-time jobs were created.
The solar farm was named ‘Solar Project of the Year’ by Renewable Energy World in March 2011.
California Valley Solar Ranch, California Valley, California
California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a solar photovoltaic (PV) power project located in San Luis Obispo County, California. The capacity of the solar farm is 292 MW.
Construction of the project began on September 2011, and full commercial operations started in October 2013. The total estimated cost of the project is nearly $1.6 billion.
The solar farm covers approximately 4,700 acres of grazing land in the Carrizo Plain. Overall, solar arrays, facility buildings, and substation comprise 30% of the project site. The remaining land is preserved and used for the conservation of species in the area.
The site of the farm also has an abandoned gypsum mine, which was cleaned up and restored for operations.
The reason for choosing this specific location was due to its flat topography, abundant solar resources, and proximity to existing transmission lines.
The electricity produced by the project is enough to fulfill the annual electricity requirements of almost 100,000 homes.
The CVSR facility requires minimal water for periodic cleanups and has a water recycling plant. It will reduce hazardous greenhouse gas emissions by almost 336,000 tonnes per year.
Also, this solar ranch is likely to contribute nearly $315 million for the economic development of the region. It has created more than 700 jobs during the period of construction.
Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, California
The Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One is a solar PV power project located in the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County, California, USA. The total capacity of the farm is 230MW capacity.
The construction of the solar ranch was completed on February 20, 2013, and the first 100 MW came online. The total investment on the project was approximately $1.36 billion.
The Antelope Solar Ranch has nearly 3.8 million solar panels. The panels are attached to metal racks, and they do not rise above eight feet from the ground to resist the high wind speed.
The plant has the capacity to provide electricity to almost 75,000 homes.
During the development phase of the project, it created 400 construction jobs and 15 operations and maintenance jobs.
The project will reduce 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, and will contribute to California’s goal of generating at least 33% of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
Mount Signal Solar, Calexico, California
The Mount Signal Solar Project, which is also called “Imperial Valley Solar 1 (IVS1),” is a commercial-grade PV power plant, located in Imperial County, California, nearly 100 miles (160 km) east of San Diego.
The construction of the project has been in three phases, out of which two phases were completed in 2018. The total capacity of the farm is 594 MW.
The solar farm is spread over 801 hectares of almost barren farmland and has more than 3 million solar modules that rotate on a north-south axis and track the path of the Sun.
During the construction of the project, a technology called “DuraTrack HZ,” has been implemented. It is a durable tracker, which is specifically designed for providing stability and support for frameless thin-film module applications.
The DuraTrack HZ technology reduces unnecessary material and labour and increases installation speeds.
When fully operational, this solar farm will be one of the largest single-axis tracker solar power plants in the world.
The generated electricity by the farm is enough to power 72,000 homes in the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) service territory.
Also, the project will bring down nearly 356,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, which is equal to displacing almost 15 million trees per year.
At the peak construction period, the project created more than 700 direct jobs in the area.
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Solar farms are capable of producing solar energy at large-scale. These projects are also ideal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating a significant number of jobs.
Solar farms, however, need a lot of space, and the cost of constructing such huge is quite high. In addition, the maintenance of solar farms is another hassle. In China, an average of 30% of the solar output is wasted due to infrastructure issues.
One of the proposed solutions to deal with the issue is developing super grids that can take energy from solar farms and distribute it to larger metropolitan areas.
Despite some of the mentioned issues, the number of solar farms in the world will grow, and it is a positive sign.
Besides producing a substantial amount of solar energy, these farms will increase the “green zones” in different parts of the world from the environmental perspective by reducing carbon emission in this otherwise polluted planet.
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