Canada may not be the first place you would guess to have the world’s largest photovoltaic facility. In fact, if this writer was asked he’d have opted for somewhere notoriously sunny such as Saudi Arabia or Australia. However, it was announced this week by Canadian firm Enbridge Inc. and Arizona-based First Solar Inc. that the 80-megawatt Sarnia Solar Project was not only opening, but it was now the largest operational PV plant in the world. Who’da thunk it?
In times when every country is trying to diversify its energy supplies, it is refreshing to see Canada step up to the plate with such a large scale project. The Sarnia Solar Project, which sees 1.3 million First Solar modules spread over 950 acres of land, has the potential to supply the energy needs of up to 12,800 households.
Not only is the renewable energy put into the local power grid, but the construction of the plant itself was also done using the latest sustainable methods. According to Enbridge, the construction project created 800 jobs and in an effort to make as little environmental impact as possible, no water was used during construction and no waste was created. As such, the entire project was designed to have minimal visual impact on the surrounding area and construction workers made sure that minmimal noise was made so as to not disturb the local wildlife.
The Sarnia project is actually the expansion of a current 20 megawatt plant that reportedly cost $300 million (Canadian) to expand into a 80 megawatt facility. What is most interesting about the project though, is Enbridge’s involvement. Traditionally the firm is a large oil and gas pipeline manufacturer, who famously had a large oil spill in Michigan, however this attempt to embrace renewable forms of energy appears to show they are weaning themselves off fossil fuels, and that can only be a good thing.
To put Sarnia’s accomplishment into some context, the largest solar photovoltaic project in the United States is the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida, which is rated at 25 megawatts. Meanwhile the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, the largest in the country, is only rated at 2 megawatts. However, the UAE is currently developing a 100 megawatt plant, so Sarnia’s record might not be theirs for long….
Lead images from First Solar