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What is a Solar Power Plant, and What Does it Do?

solar power plant on hills
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Have you ever heard of a solar power plant? If you haven’t, don’t stress! There are multiple, interchanging names for this. As a result, you may not know the name when you see it. Other names include solar parks, solar farms, or photovoltaic power stations. These plants provide a different form of energy. The energy that the power plant creates is greener, better for the Earth and more sustainable than our current usages.

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Why We Need Solar Power Plants

Our cities run on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are nonrenewable forms of energy that are depleting everyday. Instead of using these resources, countries have turned to forms of renewable energy to withstand the energy demands, without creating carbon emissions and fueling climate change. 

There are many forms of renewable energy, from wind power, geothermal energy, hydropower and solar energy. These energies naturally replenish themselves, hence the name: renewable energy. Using nonrenewable energy like oil, gas or coal have limited amounts and take a long time to replenish. Once depleted, these resources will cause massive amounts of electrical shutdowns and blackouts. 

This is Where Solar Power Plants Come In

Solar power plants were specifically designed to gather a sufficient amount of energy in their grids to power cities. The power of the sun is infinite. Solar panels harness the power of the sun into renewable energy. Each cell has two pieces of silicone: one positive and one negative charge. When the light hits the negative charge, electrons fall and become attracted to the positive charge. These electrons travel from silicone to silicone, creating a current. This current is called direct current electricity, or DC. This is the same electricity that is found in our batteries.

This occurs in every cell on a solar panel. Therefore, by having multiple panels together in a sunny place, there is a sufficient amount of energy produced. Multiple panels are called modules. A group of modules then becomes the power plant. Don’t let solar power confuse you, here’s an easy to understand guide that breaks down the science of it. 

aerial view of a solar power plant with three rows

Largest Solar Power Plants 

America isn’t the only country to be taking advantage of solar power plants for renewable energy. In fact, out of the five largest plants, none are in America. These are the five largest, according to Origin Energy

Noor Complex Solar Power Plant, Morocco

First, this solar power plant is the largest concentrated plant in the world. It is located within the Sahara Desert. This plant has a 580 megawatt capacity and can provide electricity for over one million people. This plant opened in 2020. There were three different phases with four plants designed in this area, costing 2.5 billion dollars. The first phase opened in 2016 and has already proven to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons per year.

Shakti Sthala, Pavagada, Karnataka, India

Second, this solar power plant is located in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district and is the largest in India. This 2,000 megawatt capacity park is located across 20 miles and over five different villages. This began operating in 2018. Once fully operational, this solar farm can generate enough electricity to power over 700,000 households. 

Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China

Third, we have the power plant in China. This is spread out over 9.7 miles of land. The plant itself has over four million solar panels and provides 850 megawatt capacities. Every year, this plant generates 220 gigawatt hours of electricity, leading to the energy equivalence of 200,000 households. 

Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India

Next up is the massive, 8.9 mile solar power plant in India. This plant became operational in May 2017. By October 2017, it had already generated over 800 million units of energy, saving over 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide. 

Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, India

Lastly, we have the power plant in India, with a 648 megawatt capacity. The plant itself covers an area of 3.9 miles. This cost roughly 679 USD to build, and runs over 2.5 million individual solar modules. This produces enough electricity to power an estimated 150,000 homes. 

a row of solar panels in a a field

Largest Solar Power Plants in America

Here are the top three largest plants in America, sourced from Solar Feeds

Solar Star, California

First, this solar power plant opened in 2015, and at the time it was the largest in the world. It is located within 13 miles spanning across Kern and Los Angeles County. There are two different installments of this solar farm: Solar Star 1 and Solar Star 2. Solar Star 1 has a capacity of 314 megawatts and Solar Star 2 has a capacity of 265 megawatts. 

Between the two, this generates 579 megawatts annually, providing electricity to almost 255,000 households. There are over 1.7 million solar panels.

Topaz Solar Farm, San Luis Obispo County, California

This solar plant began construction in November of 2011, and opened February 2015.  This plant takes up 5.8 miles and produces 580 megawatts every year.  At full capacity, this farm produces enough electricity to power nearly 180,000 households. This displaces 407,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the equivalent of removing 77,000 cars from the road. This has provided an estimated $417 million in impacts, from property and sales tax revenues, employment and spending and supply chain revenues. 

Ivanpah Solar, California

Last, this concentrated solar plant is located in the Mojave Desert at the base of the Clark Mountain and stretches across five miles. This plant opened in September 2015 and generates 392 megawatts every year. This project has been highly successful, but also highly criticized for disrupting animal habits. The towers get so hot that birds flying over have fried to death. 

Solar Panels for Your Home

If you don’t live near any of the large plants, you can still have your own source of renewable energy for your home. Getting solar panels installed for your home has never been easier, thanks to ONIT. Visit us online for a free quote, or call us at 1-833-433-0331 today to find out more information.

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