Article Source: IMechE

The renewables boom has seen the capacity of solar power plants increasing – these are the 10 biggest solar photo-voltaic plants in the world

In May 2016, we published a list of the ten biggest solar photovoltaic plants in the world, ranked by their capacity. Since then, interest in renewables have spiked, and a number of new projects have come online as countries seek to reduce their carbon emissions.

In the upcoming February 2018 issue of Professional Engineering, reporter Joseph Flaig pays a visit to the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktour (MBR) Solar Park in Dubai – a facility that will, by 2020, be the largest solar photovoltaic plant in the world, capable of generating an immense 5000MW. But until then, these are the plants that reign supreme in the vital race to make energy from the sun’s rays.;

1. Tengger Desert Solar Park, China

The battle for supremacy in the solar space seems to be a three-way tussle between the USA, China, and India, with the Middle East emerging as a major player too. In 2016, the USA topped the list, but that’s all changed, as our list of the largest solar photovoltaic plants in the world in 2018 reveals.

2. Datong Solar Power Top Runner Base, China

Another relatively new Chinese entry on the list, the first phase of this solar power plant can generate 1000MW. There are two more phases planned with another 1000MW of capacity each, giving this the potential to become the largest plant in the world (or the second largest after Dubai’s MBR). According to the Chinese government, the Datong plant generated 870 million watts of electricity between July 2016 and January 2017.

3. Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India

India is also getting into the solar game – its 1000MW Kurnool ‘Ultra Mega’ Solar Park came fully online last year. It is spread over 5812 acres of arid landscape in the province of Andhra Pradesh, and has more than 40 million solar panels each generating 315 watts. The Indian government wants to add 175GW of renewables capacity to the country’s grid by 2022.

4. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China

Situated alongside a hydropower station on the Yellow River in China’s Qinghai province, the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park made it onto our list in 2016, having opened the previous year. Back then, it had a 320MW capacity, but has since expanded to 850MW and keeps fourth place on this list as a result. In 2016, it was estimated the plant displaced 795,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

5. Kamuthi Solar Power Project, China

Situated in the southern Indian province of Tamil Nadu, this plant is the largest to be situated at a single contiguous location, rather than at separate sites over a large area. It has a capacity of 648 megawatts, and covers ten square kilometres.

6. Solar Star, United States

In 2016, this facility in California was top of the list as the largest solar power project in the world, with a 579MW capacity. It consists of two adjacent plants that together generate enough electricity to power around 255,000 homes. Construction was completed in June 2015, but with President Trump’s new tariffs on imported solar panels, the future expansion of such sites remains unclear.

7. Copper Mountain Solar Facility, United States

This facility in Boulder City, Nevada was sixth on our list two years ago, but drops down to seventh in 2018 despite expanding its capacity. It now serves around 18,000 homes with 552MW of clean mountain power, generated from more one million photo-voltaic panels over 1.8 square kilometres of land.

8. Topaz Solar Farm, United States

Sliding down from third, this 550MW plant in California powers around 160,000 homes in the region. The $2.5 billion project began construction in November 2011, and covers 24.6 square kilometres of land, while pulling enough carbon from the energy production cycle to account for 73,000 cars. It consists of nine million solar panels mounted at a 25 degree angle to optimise their exposure to the sun.

9. Desert Sunlight Solar Facility,  United States

Previously joint second, now in a tie for eighth with its California brother, the Desert Sunlight facility also has a capacity of 550MW. It consists of almost nine million cadmium telluride solar modules spread over 15.4 square kilometres of land. The site has been controversial though, and was criticised for its environmental impact on local animal and plant species.

10. Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park

When it was built in 2011, this plants 200MW capacity made it the largest in the world. Things have accelerated since then, and its upgraded 500MW capacity is only just enough for it to sneak 10th on the list for 2018. It covers 5.46 square kilometres in China’s Qinghai region.

BENEFITS of solar power plants:

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