With the recent opening of the world’s first solar bicycle pathway in the Netherlands, we’re all pretty excited about solar power. Good news: it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it in the near future.
The start of December this year marked the online debut of the largest solar plant on Earth, Topaz. Topaz, which sprawls across 9.5 square miles of San Luis Obispo County in California, is set to generate 550 megawatts of energy. This could power about 160,000 homes, according to First Solar, the project company owned by MidAmerican Solar.
Along with powering many homes, First Solar states that Topaz will create, “52 million dollars in economic output for local suppliers.” It will also neutralize 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the company.
The PG&E company is set to buy electricity from Topaz and add it to its grid. Construction on the project began in 2012, and it was expected to go online in 2015 – so it’s a big ahead of schedule.
The Topaz solar farm is unique because it uses 9 million photovoltaic solar panels, which promise to be safer and more effective than certain other solar technologies for power harvesting. Another solar farm, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility located in the Mojave Desert, uses thousands of mirrors to draw the sun’s rays towards a central point. While this sounds like a good idea, it has harmed birds and other wildlife.
Next year, an even larger solar plant could reach full capacity. The Solar Star plant, also owned by MidAmerican Solar, could generate up to 580 megawatts once it is up and running.
We eagerly await new and exciting innovations using solar power. The sun is our oldest energy source – and still the best.