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The world’s largest solar power plant is now fully operational in California, with enough power to supply 160,000 homes. Reports revealed that the plant is equipped with 9 million solar panels installed across 9.5 square miles.

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Late last month, the Topaz Solar project, as it’s being called, performed full commercial operation with the completion of its final 40-megawatt (AC) phase, making history not only as the first 500-megawatt plus solar farm to come on-line in the U.S. but also as the largest solar plant on-line in the world, according to Greentech Media.

Located in San Luis Obispo County on California’s Carrizo Plain, Topaz consists of 9 million solar panels, spanning a huge 9.5 square miles (25 square km): 1/3 of Manhattan’s size.

Topaz is separated from the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California’s Mojave Desert, which produces power by directing sunlight towards a central boiler using a large number of mirrors.

The Ivanpah farm has faced heavy criticism inside the U.S after the intense sunlight affected the wildlife in a bad way, especially birds. Topaz, however, does not use mirrors but photovoltaic solar panels instead. That’s what makes it a major step towards the state’s goals of supplying 33 per cent of electricity to homes from renewable sources by 2020.

Topaz is the result of two years of hard work, as First Solar manufactured the $2.5 billion project and installed the power plant in 2012, which is owned by MidAmerican Solar, a Pheonix, Arizona-based subsidiary of MidAmerican Renewables.

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The project was expected to be complete in early 2015 and the farm wasn’t supposed to be ready until sometime early next year but is now online — so call this an on-time delivery.

Solar_Panels_at_Topaz_Solar_1_(8159002527)_(2) - Copy


The company behind the project, First Solar, confirmed on its website that this project will generate sufficient electricity to power 160,000 average sized  California homes. Moreover, it will remove 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to taking 73,000 cars off the road.

First Solar added that site was selected after considerations regarding available solar resources, proximity to existing electrical transmission lines, current land use and environmental sensitivities. Unlike some solar plants, the Topaz requires no water to generate electricity, and it makes very minimal noise as there are no moving parts.

The company said:

“First Solar projects have a low environmental impact. When in operation, our systems generate electricity with no air emissions, no waste production, no water use, and have the smallest carbon footprint of any photovoltaic technology.”

Topaz is currently the world’s largest solar farm, but soon, the Solar Star plant is expected to go on-line and trump Topaz’s accomplishments. Solar Star is said to be slated to produce 579 megawatts. Both Solar Star and Topaz are owned by MidAmerican Solar, reported IFL Science.


(1) Greentech Media

(2) IFL Science

(3) The Daily Mail

(4) Images Credits: Wikipedia, First Solar


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