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Solar Energy Projects: Working Towards a Greener Future

There are many ongoing solar energy projects which have been causing quite a bit of excitement in the renewable energy world. There has been much research into solar technology and the different possible real world applications of this technology. 

This research has finally started to bear fruit, as companies all around the world are now constructing some of the largest solar power plants ever built, and the number of these huge solar plants is sure to continue rising in the upcoming years. 

Solar Energy Projects in Europe

Europe is the worldwide leader when it comes to producing solar energy. The majority of the world’s largest solar power plants are located in Europe, and that list was recently added to when the Andasol solar power plant in Spain became operational in December 2011. Andasol is the world’s largest solar power plant and utilizes over six hundred thousand parabolic mirrors to form a solar thermal collector

Andasol is capable of producing 150 megawatts of power, which is more than enough to provide electricity for over 500,000 inhabitants. One of the most important features of Andasol, and any other solar power station, is the ability to cut down on CO2 emissions by producing clean energy. Andasol can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 500,000 tons per year which, when combined with the other solar power stations, can help us take a huge step in drastically reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. 

In fact, Spain is the location of four of the six largest solar power stations in the world, and some regions of Spain are already able to cover over 50% of their energy needs through solar or other clean forms of energy. 

andasolThe world’s other largest solar power stations are also located in Europe, with one of them being the Waldpolenz Solar Park in Germany and the other located in Portugal. 

However, Andasol is slightly different from the rest of these solar power stations, as the rest relies on traditional photovoltaic solar panels arranged in massive arrays. 

The biggest criticism of these plants is that the solar arrays cover such a vast area of land, for the relatively low energy output.

Solar Energy Projects in California and the Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert, like all other deserts, is an ideal location for solar power plants due to the climate and the high number of sunny days each year. This is why there are so many solar power plants under construction in this area. There are currently nine solar plants running in the Mojave Desert under the combined name of the Solar Energy Generating Systems or SEGS, and these plants currently have an electricity output of around 350 megawatts, which combined makes them the largest solar energy producer on the planet.

However, this is nothing compared to the new plants which are currently being constructed in this California desert. Google has invested $168 million to the Ivanpah facility which is currently under construction and should be operational sometime in 2013. This plant will utilize the world’s largest solar thermal towers and has an expected output of almost 400 megawatts of electricity, which would more than double the output of SEGS. 

While this is quite impressive, it’s still nothing when compared with the Blythe Solar Power Station which is currently being built near Riverside, California. When completed, this solar thermal power station is expected to produce 968 megawatts of electricity, that’s almost one gigawatt, which would further increase the energy generation capabilities of SEGS to almost two gigawatts.

Solar Energy Projects in the Rest of the World

There has been much talk of the increased production of solar energy in India and China. Both countries have been investing a large amount of money into solar power plants, and there has been a lot of planning for some incredibly large solar plants to be built in these countries. However, nothing compares to the plans for the integrated solar city that is in the planning stages of being built in the Indian state of Gujarat. 

gujaratThis project is still very much in the planning stages, and it has not yet been announced whether this solar plant will utilize large solar panel arrays or solar thermal collectors, or possibly a combination of the two. 

However, they currently are hoping this plant will be able to produce 5 gigawatts of power (5000 megawatts) which would make it produce more than double the energy of even the largest nuclear power plants. Like India, China has some very grand plans of their own for generating clean solar energy. 

In March 2011, China announced plans to construct facilities capable of generating over 235 million kilowatts of energy, and they believe that they will be able to produce over 5 million kilowatts by 2015. 

China is planning huge solar power stations in many of its more remote areas, and if they are able to even come close to their goals, then they will be far and away the world’s leader in solar energy production. 

One of the biggest power stations that they have announced is the solar farm that is currently under construction in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. This plant is an integrated solar combined cycle station (ISCC), which utilizes solar thermal collectors, but also a gas fired turbine to increase its efficiency. While this plant is not truly solar, the emissions it releases will be very minimal. 

This solar power station hopes to be able to produce almost 100 megawatts of electricity when construction is completed in 2013. The majority of China’s new solar power stations will most likely be ISCCs or at least utilize solar thermal collectors, and China hopes that this new plant can be a model on which many new solar power stations are based.

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