Five large solar farms
Nations worldwide continue to work on environmental sustainability measures like solar farms and other renewable energy projects as part of the transition from coal-based energy generation to renewable energy like solar power. Newly developed large solar farms across the continents will have a substantial, positive impact on the environmental health of the planet.
Solar is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world, and with countries racing to assert their dominance in the burgeoning industry, the title “largest solar farm in the world” is a short-lived distinction.
In 2014, the Topaz Solar Farm in California topped the list with its 550-megawatt (MW) facility. In 2015, another operation in California, Solar Star, edged its capacity up to 579 MW. By 2016, India’s Kamuthi Solar Power Project in Tamil Nadu was on top with 648 MW of capacity. As of February 2017, Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China was the new leader, with 850 MW of capacity. With its 2 GW capacity Shakti Sthala Project in Karanataka, India bags the title in 2018.
While the title passes on, let us have a look at the world’s 5 biggest solar parks.
1) Noor Complex Solar Power Plant, Morocco
Morocco was keen to diversify and start using renewable energy since they depended on imported fossil fuels for 97% of their energy need. It resulted in the establishment of The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex which is a 580MW power plant located 10km north-east of the city of Ouarzazate, Morocco. It is the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.
The project is funded from several sources including the Clean Technology Fund, African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank, the EIB has loaned over 300 million euros to the project.
The Noor solar power station project forms part of the Moroccan Solar Energy Programme (NOOR), which aimed to develop five solar complexes with a combined capacity of approximately 2GW by 2020 to meet the energy demands of the country.
Noor 1 got connected to Moroccan power grid in Feb 2016. It provides 160 MW and has already reduced the country’s carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually.
Noor 2, the second phase, is a 200 MW CSP solar plant using parabolic troughs. It has a 7 hours storage capacity. It covers an area of 680 hectares and supplies 600 GWh per year since its commission in January 2018. The project will supply 1 million people with electricity; it is estimated to save 750,000 tons in CO2 emissions.
Noor 3 is a 150 MW gross CSP solar project using a solar power tower with 7 hours of energy storage. It covers an area of 550 hectares and is expected to supply 500 GWh per year. In September 2018 Noor 3 got first time synchronized to the power grid. Together Noor 2 and Noor 3 can offset 533,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Noor IV will be a 72 MW photovoltaic power station. The total investment in this project is 750 million.
2) Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, India
Kamuthi Solar Power Project is a photovoltaic power station spread over an area of 2,500 acres in Kamuthi, Ramanathapuram district, 90 km from Madurai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The project was commissioned by Adani Power. With a generating capacity of 648 MWp at a single location, it is the world’s 12th largest solar park based on capacity. Kamuthi is estimated to make enough power for 750,000 people.
Kamuthi Project became operational on 21 September 2016 with an investment of around ₹4,550 crore (equivalent to ₹53 billion or US$740 million in 2019).
The massive plant comprises 2.5 million solar modules, 38,000 foundations, 30,000 tonnes of structure, 6000 km of cables, 576 inverters and 154 transformers. The entire facility was completed within a record eight months by nearly 8,500 dedicated personnel who worked day and night to set up this 648 MW clean energy plant. The Kamuthi plant is now fully operational and connected with the 400 kV substation of Tantransco, powering 265,000 homes in a suitable manner.
This solar farm gave India an edge to leap to third place in the world for utility-scale solar PV parks.
3) Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China
The solar farm sits on the Tibetan Plateau in China and has the capacity to power 200,000 households. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in northwestern China’s Qinghai province is operated by State Power Investment Cooperation, one of China’s top five power generators, according to People’s Daily, China.
Phase one of the power plant was completed in 2013, while phase two was completed in 2015, with a total construction cost of approximately six billion yuan ($920.84m).
The project was developed by Huanghe Hydropower Development and is integrated with the 1,280MW Longyangxia hydroelectric power station. Longyangxia now has the capacity to produce a massive 850MW of power.
4) Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India
Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park is located at Orvakal in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. This solar park covers 5,683.22 acres with a total generating capacity of 1,000MW and was built with an investment of approximately $1bn. 2,600 GWh of electricity will be generated per year. 80% Percentage of Kurnool district’s energy needs the park can meet on a sunny day, generating close of 8 million KWh.
Once the park is fully operational, the estimated reduction in CO2 emissions each year would be 1,892,160 tonnes. 4,580,471solar panels are used, each of 315 Watt capacity. 2,000 circuit kilometres of cables connect the panels to the nearby four 220/33 kV pooling stations of 250 MW each and a 400 / 220 kV grid substation.
The project was implemented by SBG Cleantech Project (350MW), Greenko Group (500MW), Azure Power (100MW), and Prayatna Developers (50MW). More than four million solar panels were installed in the park, each with a capacity ranging between 315W and 320W.
The site generates more than eight million kWh of electricity on sunny days, sufficient to meet virtually the entire electricity demand of the Kurnool district.
5) Shakti Sthala, Pavagada, Karnataka, India
This development is part of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) scheme, which aims to build solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects to achieve the 100GW solar power target by 2020. The Shakti Sthala project is part of Karnataka’s Solar Policy 2014-2021, which aims to shift the dependency from conventional power resources to eco-friendly energy resources.
The project was developed by Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation Limited (KSPDCL), a joint venture between Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL), with an estimated investment of Rs16.5bn ($2.5bn).
Shakti Sthala Project is a 2GW solar complex developed in Pavagada, Tumkur district, approximately 180km from Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. The developers increased the capacity by 50MW. Solar park construction started in October 2016 and the 600MW first phase was commissioned in January 2018. With the commissioning of the last 100MW of the solar project by SB Energy in December 2019, the world’s biggest solar park became fully operational. The project will offset approximately 578,631t of carbon dioxide emissions a year.