The largest solar plant in the United States is officially fully operational. The Topaz Solar project in San LuisĀ Obispo County, California completed its final 40-megawatt phase last month, making it the first 500-plus megawatt farm in the country. All told, the project now includes an astounding 9 million solar panels across 9.5 square miles and generates 550-megawatts of clean, solar energy.

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The project is owned by MidAmerican Solar and started construction two years ago. Originally the plant was scheduled to complete in 2015, so the project is actually ahead of schedule. According to First Solar, the project will generate 550 megawatts, which is enough to power 160,000 homes, and to displace 377,000 tons of CO2 every single year.

Related: Massive 579MW Solar Star Power Plant Goes Online in California

Topaz was constructed with attention to its environmental impact. The plant is at least six miles away from some of the more sensitive habitats in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and was built on non-prime agricultural land. But Topaz is only expected to hold the title of largest solar plant for a short while. Next year the massive 579-megawatt Solar Star project should be at full capacity.

Via Green Tech Media

Images via USFWS Pacific Southwest Region