In the last decade, the world’s largest solar power plants have been a common sight; massive structures dominating the landscape with their towering chimneys, billowing clouds of black smoke and glinting solar panels. But while the technology has become more reliable and efficient, the power demand of the global population has soared, and so has the demand for solar-generated electricity.
Nowadays, average solar panels generate just 16 to 25 watts of electricity, which is enough for just about one or two appliances – like a small refrigerator, air conditioning unit or mobile phone charger. However, massive solar power plants are no longer the standard, as designers and engineers have found ways to maximize energy generation while keeping the size and footprint of the solar station small.
Here are 13 of the largest solar plants in the world, currently operational or nearing completion.
13. San Francisco Solano Ingenious
Located in the heart of California’s wine country, the San Francisco Solano Ingenious solar plant was the first of its kind when it came online in 2016. It features a 200-metre high silo that stores solar panels and holds 16.5 million bottles of wine. The system makes it possible for the winery to offer bottle sales during the day, while generating clean electricity at night.
Each year, the wine is aged for a minimum of three years in wooden casks.
12. Tramway Wharf Power House
The Tramway Wharf Power House in Newcastle, Australia, was built in 1881 and was originally used to supply power to the nearby tramways and other transportation means. It continued to function as a power station until 1994, when the city purchased the property and made it available for residential and commercial use. Today, the 82,000-square-foot plant houses 16 solar electric modules arrayed on its roof.
Each year, the city of Newcastle estimates it saves more than $400,000 in utility costs as a result of going green through solar power generation.
11. Salina Corona Thermal
Located in the outskirts of Salina, Kansas, the Salina Corona Thermal Energy Center is the largest geothermal power plant in the world. It uses the Earth’s heat to generate electricity, and the top of the structure is capped by a glass greenhouse, providing visitors with an amazing display of nature throughout the year. In addition, the entire complex is certified eco-friendly.
The plant was designed by the multinational engineering firm, Mott MacDonald, and is operated by the utility company, Public Service of New Mexico (PSNM). Construction of the plant started in 2009 and was completed in 2014. Since its grand opening, the facility has been operational, and in December 2018, it produced a record breaking 503 megawatts of power. (Wikipedia)
10. Three Gorges Dam
Although it is not technically a solar plant, the Three Gorges Dam in China is certainly one of the largest structures devoted to generating electricity from the sun. The dam, located near the city of Shizong, stores water for industry and irrigation purposes. Its shadow can be seen for miles around, blocking out the sun and turning night into day.
The Three Gorges Dam started generating its first power in 2006 and today is one of the biggest power producers in the world. The hydropower station has three separate units with a combined capacity of 7.8 gigawatts. It is said to be the largest of its kind in the world.
9. Indian Point Energy Plant
The Indian Point Energy Plant in Secaucus, New Jersey, is a nuclear power station constructed in the 1960s. It is the largest of its kind in the world, with four reactors producing a combined capacity of 22.5 gigawatts. (Statista)
Since its inception, the plant has been the source of much contention, as residents and activists have fought to have it shut down. They fear a catastrophic event could occur if the facility were to malfunction. (Wikipedia)
8. Ivanpah Power Plant
The Ivanpah Power Plant in California’s Mojave Desert generates electricity from sunlight via photovoltaic solar technology. It is the world’s largest solar power plant when measured by the amount of electricity it produces. (Envirosystems)
The plant features 392,944 individual solar modules that generate about 176 million kWh of electricity each year – sufficient for about 150,000 homes. As the plant’s name implies, it was built by a Russian company called International Solar Partnership in 2012.
7. Statkraft Forsvars-
The Statkraft Forsvars-
(Norway’s National Defense Force) plant in Nord-
The Statkraft Forsvars-
(Norway’s National Defense Force) plant in Nord-
was designed by the multinational company, Skanska, and opened for business in 2017. The purpose of the facility is to produce renewable energy as part of the local community’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. (Statkraft)
6. Fuelled By Water
Fueled By Water is a hybrid power plant that combines solar and tidal power. It is located on Dublin Bay in Ireland and was completed in 2015. The plant uses the sun’s energy to generate electricity and its own organic waste, which provides nutrients for fish and other marine life. (Fueled By Water)
5. N-Face Doha
Dubai’s N-Face Doha, located near the village of Burj Khalifa, is the world’s first vertical, solar power plant. The 1.8-million-square-foot structure was built on the site of a former dairy farm and features an innovative 250-metre high tower that harvests the sun’s energy and concentrates it using advanced solar technology. (N-Face Doha)
The N-Face Doha plant is a partnership between the governments of Dubai and Qatar, as well as the utility company, Ooredoo. It was inaugurated in 2013 and is expected to generate 4.9 million kilowatts of electricity each year, enough to power over 400,000 homes. In addition, its cooling tower provides over 3.3 million litres of fresh water each day for the local community.
4. San Juanico Abajo
Located in the mountains of Central California, the San Juanico Abajo solar power plant was built in 2016. The plant was designed by the Permacel construction company and is owned and operated by the city of Vista. (Sustainability North County)
Each year, the city of Vista estimates it saves more than $400,000 in utility costs as a result of going green through solar power generation. (City of Vista)
3. Tjiba Despont Power Plant
The Tjiba Despont Power Plant in Brazil’s Amazônia region was completed in 2018 and is the second largest solar power plant in the world. It generates solar power via photovoltaic technology, and at night, it feeds power into the grid. (Macaero)
With an area of nearly 3,600,000 square feet, the Tjiba Despont Power Plant is one of the world’s biggest concrete silos. It is the work of the French-Swiss firm, Bouygues, and was built in 2006-2012 to provide electricity to the whole Amazônia region. (Wikipedia)
The Tjiba Despont Power Plant is named after Brazilian President, Juscelino Kubitschek de Souza who, in 1956, commissioned the construction of the silo.
2. Solar Plant Noithar
The Solar Plant Noithar in the United Arab Emirates is the largest solar energy plant to have ever been built. It is also one of the most unique architectural marvels in the world. (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority)
The Noithar plant utilizes an innovative solar tracking technology that follows the sun’s movements across the sky, maximizing the amount of energy generated while minimizing energy loss. Its nine polygonal shapes each feature a different shape and size of solar panel, resulting in a unique aesthetic. (Noithar)
When complete, the Noithar plant is expected to generate about 500 megawatts of clean, renewable energy and to contribute to reducing the UAE’s carbon footprint. (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority)