Imagine the perfect place to build a new solar power plant. What does it look like? Naturally, it’s going to be a place that gets a lot of sunlight throughout the day with minimal cloud cover. It’s a place that’s hot and dry, so solar components can collect and convert more energy without moisture getting in the way of operational functions. It must also be a place with a great deal of flat, open space to accommodate plenty of solar panels and its accompanying machinery.
Does such a place exist? Is there an ideal place for solar power production that beats all others? There is, and it’s closer than you might think.
While it doesn’t necessarily produce the most solar power of any state, California is arguably the most important state for solar power production, and the most efficient at that. But California’s solar energy ventures haven’t always been easy.
In this blog, the solar energy systems team at RGS Energy will give you a look at the history of solar power in California. While the journey of solar growth has been slightly tumultuous over the years, the Golden State has made its mark on the solar industry, and provided electricity for more than just its residents.
The Basics of Solar in California
Over the past two decades, California has become the home of some of the world’s largest solar power plants. This boom in solar energy generation has been spurred in part by the favorable climate of the state and the efforts put forth by California lawmakers. In 2011, California set a goal to install 3,000 MW of solar energy production by 2020. Because of advancements in the field of solar energy and a sharp decrease in the cost of solar panels, this goal was raided in 2016 to 12,000 MW by 2020.
California boasts the largest amount of photovoltaics installed than any other state and, in 2010, 48 percent of the United States solar energy production was focused in the state of California.
While California has quite a few notable solar power plants, two stand out more than the rest because of their sheer size and historical significance. We’ll discuss these plants next.
Topaz Solar Farm
Located in San Luis Obispo County, the Topaz Solar Farm is a 550-megawatt photovoltaic power station that was once the largest solar farm in the world. This solar farm is of particular note because it includes 9 million CdTe photovoltaic modules that make use of thin-film technology, a solar technology that is quickly gaining popularity because of its potential efficiency standards.
Located in one of the sunniest areas in California, the Topaz Solar Farm was designed to operate during the middle of the day, when the demand for electricity is the highest and when the sun is at its highest point. In its years of operation, the Topaz Solar Farm has provided power to millions of California homes and, in 2016, produced 1,265,805 Mwh of energy. As the technology surrounding solar panels advances, it is predicted that the amount of energy this solar plant is able to produce is only going to rise. With favorable weather conditions, proper maintenance, and future expansions, it is feasible that this solar power plant could produce up to 2 GWh of energy on an annual basis.
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
Approximately six miles north of Desert Center, California in the Mojave Desert, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is another 550 megawatt photovoltaic power station that has quickly become a key component of California’s overall energy plan. Like the Topaz Solar Farm, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm makes use of approximately 8.8 million cadmium telluride photovoltaic modules that make use of thin-film technology.
With construction beginning in 2011, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm was completed in two phases of construction, both of which were supported by power purchase agreements. Phase I of the project delivered a capacity of 300 MW which was sold to Pacific Gas & Electric company. Phase II of the project, which included an additional 250 MW of energy production, was sold to Southern California Edison. With an annual output of approximately, 1,287 GWh, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is poised to help California reach its goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
The Future of Solar in California
California is already an excellent example of the power of solar on a national and international stage—and because of the state’s willingness to invest in solar energy, their solar production is sure to grow. The sun will keep shining, the open spaces will remain open, and the people of California will continue to use solar as a key employer and economic driver in their communities.
If you would like to learn more about the value of solar energy production, or you would like to learn what solar could do for your home, please contact us today at RGS Energy. We have been providing California residents with solar installation services for years and we are certain that we can develop a solar array that is perfect for your home.