Image credit: Safe-Ray
There was a time when the title of the world's largest solar park was being measured in tens of MW. But that is rapidly changing. There are plans currently in the pipeline for plants as big as 400MW, and officials in Germany have just connected a new 78-megawatt portion of an existing plant that make it, they say, the current world leader in capacity.
And the best part? It was built on a former open-pit mine in just 3 months.78MW of Solar Built in 3 Months
Earlier this year, I posted about a 5MW solar farm in the UK that was built in just 6 weeks, arguing that it was a powerful demonstration of the rapid speed at which solar can be deployed. This point is illustrated even more powerfully by the fact that Renewable Energy World tells us the 78MW section of the Senftenburg plant in Eastern Germany was built in just 3 months. Of course equipment manufacture, planning and other set-up times should still be factored in, but compare those construction times to any other major energy source and I suspect they'll be pretty favorable.
Former Mine Becomes Clean Energy Beacon
The other notable aspect of the Senftenburg plant is that it was built on former open-pit mining land, meaning it is taking degraded, relatively unproductive land and turning it into a major source of energy production. Much like this old tin mine turned 1.4MW solar plant, there's more than a little symbolic value here as the old, extractive economy shows signs of giving way to a more nurturing, harmonious and sustainable one. (The developers also set aside a large portion of land for conservation purposes.)
Innovative Land Use for Better Solar
As large-scale solar plants become more common, developers will need to find ways to balance conservation and land-use issues with generating capacity. From reclaiming degraded land, to solar double cropping with farm land, through planting up solar and wind parks with bee-friendly wildflowers, to solar canopies on parking lots, there are plenty of ways to make that happen.