December 12, 2011 |
Solar Farms are Sprouting Up Across the Country
The following appeared in the Vancouver Sun on December 2, 2011: “The sun does, however, have superpower potential. It is free, clean, and bathes the Earth with about 100,000 terawatts (trillion watts) of energy per year, which far exceeds the 15 terawatts humanity now consumes.” That is a whopping 6,666 times more than we use and only begs the question why don’t we utilize this free and clean energy source. Although not widely reported in the main stream media, it appears that an inexorable movement has begun towards utilizing this energy source thanks mainly to the various policies instituted by federal, state and local governments. Also, market forces have driven the cost of solar down to the point the grid parity can be achieved in large scale projects. One particular policy of note are mandates that utilities produce a certain percentage of their energy portfolio from renewable energy sources. The result is the birth of solar farms, large solar arrays on commercial buildings, and aggressive rebate programs to entice homeowners to invest in solar energy.
There is no exact definition of what constitutes a “solar farm.” However, it is the kind of thing that you know it when you see it. The following list represents true “solar farms” that no one would dispute. They are referred to as “photovoltaic power stations” (this list taken from Wikipedia).
“As of December 2011, the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are the Golmud Solar Park (China, 200 MW), Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant (Canada, 97 MW), Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station (Italy, 84.2 MW), Finsterwalde Solar Park (Germany, 80.7 MW), Ohotnikovo Solar Park (Ukraine, 80 MW), Lieberose Photovoltaic Park (Germany, 71.8 MW), Rovigo Photovoltaic Power Plant (Italy, 70 MW), Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park (Spain, 60 MW), and the Strasskirchen Solar Park (Germany, 54 MW).
There are also many large plants under construction. The Desert Sunlight Project is a 550 MW solar power plant under construction in Riverside County, California, that will use thin-film solar photovoltaic modules made by First Solar. The Blythe Solar Power Project is a 500 MW photovoltaic station under construction in Riverside County, California. The Agua Caliente Solar Project is a 290 megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility being built in Yuma County, Arizona. The California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a 250 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic power plant, which is being built by SunPower in the Carrizo Plain, northeast of California Valley. The 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch is a First Solar photovoltaic project which is under construction in the Antelope Valley area of the Western Mojave Desert, and due to be completed in 2013.” This trend of ever increasing large commercial solar farms will only accelerate as we move forward.
Warren Buffet invests in solar
Consider the Topaz Solar farm project presently under construction in California which will be the second largest solar farm in the world. It will produce 550 megawatts (a megawatt is 1,000,000 watts) and it is estimated that it will be able to power 160,000 homes. It is being constructed on the Carrizo Plain on the eastern edge of San Luis Obispo County and is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The solar farm was a project by First Solar, a large publicly traded manufacturer of thin film panels. However, the project was struggling to secure the necessary financing. Several days ago, Warren Buffett through MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.—part of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway—announced that it had entered into “definitive agreements” with First Solar to take over the $2 billion, 550-megawatt photovoltaic power plant. When a person of Buffett’s stature gets involved, solar energy is turning a corner. The Topaz project is a risk-free stable stream of profitable income for 25 years, exactly the kind of investment the likes of Buffett require. What is interesting to note is that “the project will be decommissioned and restored to habitat after 35 years of operation.” This trend towards solar farms will continue as “tax credits for wind in the U.S. expire at the end of next year, while solar ones run till 2016.”
Large scale Oregon projects
Large scale solar projects are being built here in Oregon too. Consider a project that came to life in Aurora, Oregon. Under Portland General Electric’s solar payment option program, which buys electricity produced by customers and transfers it to the electric grid, the 500 kilowatt system is also Clackamas County’s largest ground-mounted solar array, practically hidden on some of the area’s oldest farmland. It cost $2,000,000.00 and was 50% financed by Umpqua Bank. It generates $20,000.00 a month for the owner and will be profitable after seven years. For further information on a project of this size or smaller contact firstname.lastname@example.org.