2nd December 2014
Did you hear about the largest solar power plant in the world and how it is now producing electricity? Did it make the nightly broadcast news?
Probably not, but Solyndra was all over the news media for a while. There’s a blatant lack of coverage for solar success stories, so it wouldn’t be surprising if most people aren’t hearing about them. California’s Topaz project is the largest solar power plant in the world with a 550 MW capacity, and it is now in full operation. It is located in San Luis Obispo County and has 9 million solar panels. Construction began just two years ago.
The electricity produced by the plant will be purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric. The solar panels were manufactured by First Solar and the project was developed by First Solar.
SEIA says about 200 homes in California are powered for each MW of solar power capacity. So, for a 550 MW solar plant, about 110,000 homes could be powered when the sun is shining.First Solar has said this figure could be 160,000 homes in the case of Topaz.
The San Luis Obispo county population is about 276,000. It might turn out that the majority of this population could be powered by a single solar power plant.
Energy storage is a growing field, so it eventually might be that excess electricity generated by solar power could be stored for nighttime use and for overcast days, extending the impact of Topaz even further.
Using the electricity created by this huge solar plant rather than fossil fuels will prevent the generation of about 377,000 tons of CO2 annually. It will also not produce harmful air pollution the way coal power plants do.
About 400 construction jobs were created during the construction phase and up to $400,000 in property taxes each year will be paid by the project owners. That’s a big boost to the local area.