By Beth Buczynski
According to a report released in late June by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. installed 252 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems. Although the American solar industry has en
joyed rapid growth in the
past few years, it’s not the only place where massive installations are changing the environmental impact of powering a home.
With rapidly declining costs of both equipment and maintenance and a variety of solar lease options, massive solar installations capable of powering hundreds of thousands of homes at a time are going up all over the world. Here are some of the biggest:
Developers recently broke ground on the $6 billion-plus project that will produce about 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy and will be the largest solar facility in the world. Just to put that in perspective, the U.S. installed a total of about 481 megawatts of solar energy in 2010. Using mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam, the plant will create electricity by using that steam to turn turbine generators, a technique known as parabolic trough technology.
2. Howbery Business Park in Oxfordshire, UK
With 3,000 panels and the ability to generate a whopping 682 MWh a year, Britain’s latest and biggest solar installation switched on for the first time just a few weeks ago. SolarCity, the company that manufactured the panels says that the UK’s traditionally overcast weather won’t be a problem since the system relies on daylight, not necessarily direct
3. La Florida, Spain
This is the plant that allowed Spain to overtake the U.S. as the biggest solar generator in the world, that is, until the Blythe Solar Power project is complete. Covering approximately 550,000 square meters it’s no surprise that the plant produces 50MW of power. When the plant opened in 2010, it meant Spain’s total solar power production became equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station.
4. Rovigo, Italy
In 2010, SunEdison announced that it had approval to develop one of the largest European solar plants in the small village of Rovigo, Italy. By November 2010, the plant was completed and connected to the Italian electric grid. The 70-megawatt PV plant is expected to generate enough electricity annually to power 17,150 homes.
5. Brandenburg, Germany
Just days ago, German general contractor, GP JOULE announced that it had started construction what will become the country’s largest solar installation. The plant will be built in Meuro, Brandenburg, on 150 acres that were previously used as an open-cast mining site. The project will cost €140 million, and when complete, will break all national records at a nominal output of 70 MW.
Beth Buczynski is a freelance writer from Colorado. She enjoys exploring new energy technologies and socially responsible businesses at Green Marketing TV, as well as Entrepreneurs for a Change, the social entrepreneur’s source for interviews with the industry’s top thinkers. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog.