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The Coming Boom in U.S. Solar Farms

By Andy Soos | Wed, 03 November 2010 17:04 | 1

How large can a Photo Voltaic (PV) solar farm be? It, of course, depends, on the available land space and the efficiency of the solar cells involved. Sarnia Solar Facility, deemed the world’s largest Photo Voltaic solar power station, has just opened in Canada. Located in Ontario, it has a capacity of 80MW, 20MW above Olmedilla PV Park in Spain, which so far has held the title as the largest of its kind in the world. Sarnia is expected to generate 120,00MWh per year, or enough power for 12,800 homes.

For large-scale generation, Concentrated Solar Power plants like SEGS, have been the norm but recently multi-megawatt Photo Voltaic plants are becoming common. Completed in 2007, the 14 MW power station in Clark County, Nevada, United States and the 20 MW site in Beneixama, Spain are characteristic of the trend toward larger photovoltaic power stations in the United States and Europe.

Altogether, solar power in 2008 makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. energy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The nation now has just two large-scale solar thermal systems — one 354-megawatt set of facilities has run continuously in the Mojave Desert in California for about 20 years, and another 64-megawatt plant came online in Nevada last year. When it comes to solar photovoltaics, the largest system in the US so far is the 14-megawatt plant at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The new Sarnia station is a partnership between Enbridge Energy and First Solar, which provides thin-film panels as opposed to silicon ones.

"Enbridge will sell the power output of the facility to the Ontario Power Authority pursuant to 20-year Power Purchase Agreements under the terms of the Ontario government’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program", the company said in an official statement.

The Nellis Solar Power Plant is located within Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, on the northeast side of Las Vegas. The Nellis solar energy system will generate in excess of 25 million kilowatt-hours (kW•h) of electricity annually and supply more than 25 percent of the power used at the base. The system was inaugurated on December 17, 2007.

Occupying 140 acres (0.57 km2) of land leased from the Air Force at the western edge of the base, this ground-mounted solar system employs an advanced sun tracking system, designed and deployed by SunPower. The system contains approximately 70,000 solar panels, and the peak power generation capacity of the plant is approximately 13 MW AC.

Yet more is planned. Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio earlier in October 2010 announced a deal to turn 500 acres of reclaimed strip mine land into one of the nation’s largest solar farms, open two solar component manufacturing plants in Ohio, and generate enough electricity from the sun to power 25,000 homes.

Columbus-based American Electric Power signed a deal to purchase the electricity generated by the solar farm over the next 20 years and invest $20 million in the project in Muskingum County east of Columbus.

So Sarnia may be the biggest right now but larger facilities are in the planning.

By. Andy Soos of Environmental News Network

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  • Anonymous on November 04 2010 said:
    This is very exciting news among a handful of other Ontario based renewable energy developments to come in the new year!

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