The Largest Solar Plant in the World Is Now Fully Operational in California

ENERGY, 1 Dec 2014

Eric Wesoff , GreenTechMedia – TRANSCEND Media Service

The 550-megawatt Topaz project is on-line and sending power to the California grid.

Topaz_2_310_224 solar energy california powerNov 24, 2014 – Late last month, the Topaz Solar project achieved full commercial operation with the completion of its final 40-megawatt (AC) phase. This is the first 500-megawatt plus solar farm to come on-line in the U.S. and the largest solar plant on-line in the world.

Two years ago, the millionth First Solar (FSLR) solar module was installed at the power plant owned by MidAmerican Solar. As of today, 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.

The solar farm was not the recipient of a loan guarantee and is built on “disturbed farm land” miles away from sensitive areas in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. First Solar suggests that the project will create $192 million in pay for approximately 400 construction positions over the three-year build and “$52 million in economic output for local suppliers.” PG&E will purchase the electricity from the Topaz project under a power-purchase agreement.

Information on the interconnection comes courtesy of the WECC website and the intrepid sleuthing of GTM solar analyst Cory Honeyman.

Followers of ancient history will recall that this project was originated by OptiSolar and that some of the Topaz real estate was once intended for an Ausra CSP solar power plant.

Here’s a chart showing the top three U.S. PV power plants under development in the U.S.

Project Name Developer Capacity (MWac) Capacity On-Line as of 11/14 State Offtaker Owner
Topaz Solar Farm First Solar 550 550 CA PG&E MidAmerican Energy Holdings
Desert Sunlight First Solar 550 524 CA PG&E, SCE NextEra Energy Resources, GE Energy Financial Services, Sumitomo
Solar Star  SunPower  579  309  CA  SCE MidAmerican Energy Holdings

Source:  GTM Research’s Utility PV Market Tracker

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