550 Megawatts: A Thin-Film Solar Record Worth Announcing!


photo: SunPower

You may have read a few weeks back how I was lamenting all the PR exaggeration in the renewable energy world: Case in point, a 10 megawatt thin-film solar plant claiming to be the world’s largest. Factually true, but tiny in the greater scheme of power generation.

Well, here’s something that by all accounts is big: OptiSolar has announced it will be building a 550 MW thin-film solar power plant in San Luis Obispo County, California. No word on the cost to build the Topaz Solar Farm, but it is expected to be begin initial operations in 2011 and be fully online by 2013.

I'll remind you again: the previous largest thin-film solar power plant was 10 MW. But wait, there's more:250 Megawatts of Solar From SunPower Isn’t Too Shabby Either
Considering that the previously largest planned solar project in the United States is a 25 MW project in Florida, SunPower's announced 250 MW California Solar Ranch, also located in San Luis Obispo County, is big jump in power plant capacity records. Again, no word on how much it is expected to cost, but the project should begin operations in 2010 and be fully operational in 2012.

A Total of 800 Megawatts Solar Power to Be Bought by PG&E;
So where’s all this new solar power going? PG&E;. The California utility has entered into power agreements with Optisolar and SunPower to purchase the total 800 megawatts of energy these plants will be producing at peak capacity. Cumulatively, PG&E; says that these facilities will generate 1.65 billion kWh of electricity annually, enough to power 239,000 residential homes.

With these agreements, PG&E; will have contracts for more than 3,600 MW of renewable power (2,500 MW from solar) and will be able to generate 24% of its total electric generation from renewable sources.

Plans in India May Eventually Dwarf These Projects
Though recent talk by the Clinton Foundation about building 5 gigawatts of solar power in India would eventually dwarf this news, it remains a giant step forward for solar energy in the United States and the world.

:: SunPower and :: The New York Times
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Tags: California | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | United States