Back in the beginning of the summer we heard about plans to develop what at the time would have been world's largest thin-film solar PV plant, a 10 megawatt facility outside of Las Vegas. Around the same time a 25 megawatt solar PV plant in Florida (using regular solar panels) was announced. While technically records, both really wouldn't provide that much power in the grand scheme of things.
Well, oh what a difference a couple of months can make. In the past month alone the scale of some of the new solar power plants being planned has increased such that you really should sit up at take notice. Granted, all of these are either in the planning stages or in the very first phases of construction—it wouldn't surprise if some of these plans get revised—but still, solar power plants that rival fossil fuel power plants in size is a huge boost for renewable energy. So check 'em out:
The smallest and most recently announced of all these projects, Bhaskar Silicon Ltd will be building an integrated solar power complex in Haldia, West Bengal near the border with Bangladesh. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by 2009. In addition to the 250 MW of electricity the facility will generate, by the time it is fully operational in 2011 it will be able to produce 5,000 tonnes of polysilicon.
Announced back in April, BrightSource Power will be building three solar thermal plants in the Mojave Desert of California with a combined capacity of 500 MW which are expected to come online by 2011. The utility buying the power will be PG&E;, which has signed contracts for an additional 400 MW of solar power which could bring the final size for this project to 900 MW.
PG&E; apparently wasn't satisfied with its 500 MW arrangement with BrightSource above (hint: California's renewable targets have a lot to do with it...) and has signed contracts with two different solar developers using two different solar technologies: Optisolar will be building a record-shattering 550 MW thin-film solar plant in San Louis Obispo County, while SunPower will be building a 250 MW solar facility called the California Solar Ranch. The former project is expected to begin feeding power to the grid beginning in 2011, the latter in 2011.
Similar to its plans for California above, BrightSource has upped the ante with its plans for Nevada. The company has announced plans to build three interconnected solar thermal plants with a combined capacity of 1200 MW at a site northeast of Las Vegas. BrightSource estimates that this project will create enough electricity to power 900,000 homes.
As several regulatory hurdles still need to be cleared on this one, and BrightSource still needs to find someone to buy the plants' power, this one still has some pretty large question marks surrounding it. That said, BrightSource hopes to have the facility completed by 2012.
Though this project is by far the largest solar project under consideration, and would be one of the largest power projects regardless of source, the 5 GW (that's 5000 MW for the watt-conversion challenged) "Integrated Solar City" which was recently discussed by the Clinton Foundation and to be located in the western Indian state of Gujarat is such an increase in scale for solar power that, frankly, my jaw hangs open in a mixture of joy, disbelief and awe.
Even though it has not be disclosed whether the project will employ solar photovoltaic or solar thermal technology, it certainly is gigantic. Even if it eventually gets built at half its currently touted size, it'll still be bigger than your average nuclear plant by a wide margin.
Though not even in the same league as the other projects mentioned here, the rooftop solar array which General Motors is installing on its Zaragosa, Spain assembly plant deserves an honorable mention award. At 12 MW it really shows what you can do when you've got the willpower, two million square feet of rooftop real estate and 85,000 solar panels. General Motors has not indicated how much of the plant's power requirements will be met through this project, but at similar facilities in California up to 50% of their electric demand.
250 MW Integrated Solar Power Facility Planned for West Bengal
BrightSource to Build 500 Megawatts of Solar-Thermal Power in Mojave Desert
550 Megawatts: A Thin-Film Solar Record Worth Announcing!
a href="https://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/08/brightsource-energy-plans-1200-megawatt-solar-themal-plant-nevada.php">BrightSource Plans 1200 MW Facility Outside of Las Vegas
World's Largest Solar Energy Project (5GW!) Planned for Gujarat, India
General Motors Factory to Host World's Largest Rooftop Solar Array