The world’s largest solar plant is up and running in California, a 550 megawatt plant; the Topaz solar project completed 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.
The developer for the project is First Solar, and the project will produce sufficient electricity to power 160,000 California homes. Topaz is located in San Luis Obispo County, California, on the northwestern corner of the Carrisa Plains.
First Solar said the site was chosen after considerations regarding available solar resource, proximity to existing electrical transmission lines, current land use, and environmental sensitivities. They said that Topaz is sited on largely “non-prime,” actively tilled agricultural land that has “limited productivity.” At the northwestern edge of the Carrisa Plains, Topaz is more than six miles from the more sensitive habitats in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. According to fact sheet notes from MidAmerican Solar, the Topaz project is being built on previously disturbed agricultural land with a minimally impervious surface that allows for natural drainage and low-impact development and has the best solar insolation in Pacific Gas and Electric’s service territory. The Topaz project is designed to function as productive grassland habitat for native plants and animals while being used for passive farming of the sun’s energy. Water used during construction is primarily for dust control. During operation, the panels do not require washing and vegetation is maintained to help with dust control.
“As of today,” wrote Eric Wesoff on November 24 in Greentech Media, “the project has installed 9 million solar panels across 9.5 square miles in San Luis Obispo County on California’s Carrizo Plain. Construction began in 2012 and was expected to be complete in early 2015—so call this an on-time delivery.”