Somewhere between Yuma and Phoenix, Arizona on a desolate stretch of 2,400 acres of land, construction was just completed on the world’s largest fully-operational solar-power plant. Known as Agua Caliente, the renewable energy plant can generate 290 megawatts at peak capacity – which is enough to power 230,000 homes and is comparable to the energy output of the average coal-fired power plant. The power will be used by the San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and it’s just one more step in California’s plan to source a third of its power from renewable sources.
The project is owned by NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar and was built by First Solar using their thin solar-panels to convert all of that southwestern sunshine into clean energy. The project was in part funded by a federal loan guarantee to the tune of $967 million and was named Solar Project of the Year by Renewable Energy World. All told, the Agua Caliente project will help keep 324,000 tons of CO2 emissions from reaching the atmosphere each year, which is essentially like taking 70,000 cars off of the road. The project also provided 400 jobs during construction.
NRG owns 9 other solar facilities in three different states, but the massive Agua Caliente is the largest. The company also owns the Ivanpah solar thermal project, which uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create energy. Ivanpah went online in February and though it has had its problems, it has added a massive 392 megawatts of solar energy to California’s electric grid.