- The 550 MW Desert Sunlight project co-owned by NextEra Energy Resources, GE Energy Financial Services, and Sumitomo went online this month, joining MidAmerican Energy Holdings’s 550 MW Topaz Solar project, which went online late last year, as the two biggest solar power plants in the world in full operation.
- Desert Sunlight was backed by a $1.46 billion loan guarantee. Topaz Solar was built without benefit of a federal loan guarantee.
- MidAmerican’s 579 MW Solar Stars project will take the "world’s biggest" crown when it goes fully operational later this year. SunPower, manufacturer of the most efficient solar modules, is the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for it.
First Solar, the biggest builder of utility-scale solar in the world, served as the EPC contractor for Topaz and Desert Sunlight. Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison have power purchase agreements for parts of Desert Sunlight’s output. PG&E is taking all the production from Topaz.
There are currently some 800 major U.S. solar projects with more than 43 GW of capacity in the database of the Solar Energy Industries Association. There are over 8.4 GW of operational solar projects. There are over 31 GW of PV and CSP projects under development and construction. Almost all of the large scale projects are in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida.
A shift of emphasis from PV solar power plants to concentrating solar power (CSP) plants with storage is expected in the wake of Governor Jerry Brown’s announcement that California will up its renewables mandate from 33% by 2020 to 50% by 2030.
A recent NREL study put the value of CSP plants with storage at three times the value of PV plants because of their capability to store and dispatch power.