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California Solar Power is Leading the Way Into the Future

In California solar power is taking off like no other place in the world. The state is home to the largest solar energy generating installation in the world, and construction has already begun on another, even larger installation.

When it comes to a list of the countries which produce the most solar power, the United States is a distant fourth, and California solar power is one of the major reasons why the US is not further down the list. A major reason for this lies in the laws which California has passed to try and help alleviate the state’s energy crisis. 

In 2002, California state lawmakers signed a Renewable Portfolio Standard law bill which required that renewable energy account for at least 20% of the state’s energy production by 2010. Then in 2008, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed another bill which added onto the original RPS bill and stated that at least 33% of the state’s energy production must come from renewable sources by 2020. 

A large percentage of this renewable energy comes from solar power due to the state’s climate which is extremely conducive to photovoltaic solar systems. This is especially true in the Mojave Desert, which is where the large California solar power plants are located.

Solar Power in the Mojave Desert

california solar powerThe Mojave Desert is home to the largest solar energy installation in the world, as well as several other large scale solar power plants. The reason for this is because the Mojave Desert has the best insolation in the United States. 

Insolation is, in very basic terms, the amount of solar radiation that reaches the area at one time. The high amount of insolation and the success of previous projects have led to the growth of solar energy in this area, and many even bigger solar installations are under construction or in the planning stages. 

  • Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS)

Solar Energy Generating System is the name that has been given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California. Construction on the final plant was completed in 1991 by Luz Industries, who went bankrupt soon after and sold off the plants to various companies. 

SEGS generates energy using solar thermal troughs, although approximately 10% of the energy comes from natural gas because sometimes the solar energy is not enough to meet the electricity needs of southern California. The nine plants have a total wattage of 354 megawatts, making SEGS the largest solar installation in the world although this title is set to change hands, possibly several times, within a matter of years.
  • california solar powerIvanpah Solar Power Facility 

The Ivanpah Solar Facility is currently under construction in southeast California, and when completed will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants with a combined capacity of 392 megawatts. Each plant will consist of a huge array of mirrors which are designed to redirect and focus the sun’s energy onto a boiler unit contained in a large tower. 

The sun’s rays heat water inside the boiler which then produces steam to power a steam generator. The first plant is the only one under construction at the moment and they expect the first stage to be completed in 2013. This first plant is to be equipped with the largest solar powered steam generator ever to be built. 

California Solar Power Companies 

The number of California solar energy companies has continued to rise, and the state is home to some of the top manufacturer’s of solar energy equipment in the world. Many of the world’s leading solar companies also have manufacturing plants in California. This is due in large part to the Renewable Standard Portfolio, but also due to California’s large population and climate. 

Many of the world’s most reputable photovoltaic manufacturers, such as Sharp Solar and Mitsubishi, have decided to locate some of their production facilities in California. This is also due to the fact that the United States Government passed laws on renewable energy products to give consumers rebates for buying products which are produced directly in the USA. Many native Californians have even struck it rich by starting up their own solar businesses, such as solar installation.

California Solar Energy Education

California is home to the largest number of solar training programs in the United States and is leading the way in solar education at all levels. In primary and secondary schools, the California Board of Education has mandated that students must learn about the benefits of solar power and how it can be used to help reduce the amount of pollution that we continually release into the atmosphere. This has helped to contribute to the rise in the amount of homes which are starting to generate their own solar energy and use it to power and heat their home. 

California is also a leader in solar energy education at the university level as well. In fact, Stanford University has been designing and constructing solar powered race cars since 1986. Stanford is almost always an entrant in the World Solar Challenge, which is the most famous solar powered car race in the world, requiring teams to drive almost 2,000 miles in an endurance race across the Australian Desert. 

The Stanford Solar Car Project is a student run organization that oversees all of the aspects of Stanford’s solar race cars including design and construction. Stanford is also home to some of the top solar research laboratories in the world.

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