The Solar Star Legacy: What Used to Be the World’s Largest Solar Farm
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Constant worldwide competition exists to build the next most significant and extraordinary solar farm. New technologies make it easier to generate more power more efficiently, and nobody gets over the “bigger is better” mentality when it comes to infrastructure and energy creation. Each time a new solar farm breaks records, it inspires the world to do it again, but better. Let’s analyze Solar Star, one of the last decade’s biggest solar farm innovations in the United States.
This analysis looks at power generation capability while considering acreage and panel amount. Usually, the amount of power a park generates correlates with greater acreage.
What Is Solar Star?
Solar Star used to be America’s largest solar farm. For a moment, it was the largest in the world. It hit most of its records in 2015, but other solar farms have been built since that exceeded its size and power generation capacity.
The project is the brainchild of well-regarded solar panel provider and installer SunPower. Its development unfolded in two phases — Solar Star 1 and Solar Star 2 — adding to its total MWs. Its home is Rosamond, California. These are the specs of the initial build:
- It contains 1,720,000 solar modules on tracking racks that make the panels follow the sun’s rays for optimal power generation.
- It has the potential to power 255,000 homes.
- It created 650 jobs during its three-year construction, with 15 more on-site for maintenance.
- It covers 3,200 acres.
- It has a 579 MW capacity.
The project successfully met deadlines, becoming California’s claim to fame in the international solar market. It employed self-cleaning technology to help with continued maintenance and the longevity of the panels. The state is known for its aggressive climate goals, and Solar Star would reduce carbon emissions by 570,000 tons. Greenlighting this operation was a massive leap forward for the state’s clean energy goals.
Comparing Solar Star against other nearby Californian farms demonstrates how impactful it was when it became operations. Antelope Valley only generated 266 MW. Catalina Solar only created 60 MW.
What Has Solar Star Taught the World About Solar Adoption?
Land use is one of the most prominent debates in the solar conversation. Solar farms take up countless acres. Depending on how and where the land is creates even more contentious discourse. Solar Star was built on disturbed ground, meaning it did not take advantage of habitats or untouched fields. Humans already manipulated the land.
The placement is ideal. Other farms in the past have been a disturbance to other habitats, causing arguments between environmental advocates and installers. However, it spans 3,000 acres, whereas a nearby natural gas plant produces similar power within around 120 acres. Despite the massive reduction in greenhouse gases Solar Star brings, it kept the land use debate alive. Is taking up that much land that would otherwise benefit other sustainable development? Is solar genuinely scalable?
Recent heat waves prove they are necessary for mitigating global warming. California, and the rest of the world, is seeing record temperatures. Power outages happen more frequently, and power companies must resort to asking customers to reduce energy usage. Unfortunately, the antiquated grid in the U.S. cannot handle power demand. Solar Star is one of the reasons Californians can keep the lights on despite the volcanic temperatures.
It demonstrates how renewable energy is critical for the grid’s transition into modern models. It is going to take time to reinvigorate grids worldwide. Thousands of miles of transmission lines and battery storage are only a few tasks involved in the transition, and that is just scratching the surface. While professionals work on this little by little, solar farms like Solar Star help keep power on. It is imperative during natural disasters and severe weather.
Is Solar Star Still the Largest in the World?
Everyone knew Solar Star’s standing was a stepping stone for even grander solar farms. It remained the top dog in the United States until 2020, when the Mount Signal solar farm became fully operational in 2020, generating around 614 MW throughout all of its projects. It is another project native to California.
2023 was another year for development. The Edwards & Sanborn Solar and Energy Storage project will become the largest farm in the nation, primarily because it also contains 120,000 batteries. It has the potential for 875 MW in — you guessed it — California. It has over 1.9 million panels.
But what about the rest of the world? The achievements of the States remain impressive, but global solar competition is no joke. China, India, and the United Arab Emirates have huge, outstanding solar farms. Many have started operating in the last five years. The Bhadla and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar parks in India and UAE, respectively, generate over 4,000 MW combined.
The most expansive solar farm on the planet is almost unbelievable. The Gonghe Talatan solar park in China has a potential capacity of 15,730 MW, far exceeding every other project. For one of the planet’s most populated and carbon dioxide-heavy nations, projects like this must alleviate reliance on fossil fuels.
It was such a severe jump from the previous record it is hard to tell what a solar farm after it will look like. Some experts suggest the future is floating solar farms in the ocean.
Solar Star Has Influenced Solar Forever
Every time a new solar farm is installed, regardless of size or power generation potential, it keeps hope alive for scalable solar power. Solar Star was revolutionary for its time and continues to be even though it isn’t the largest in the world anymore. Ideally, solar farms will become so commonplace that these records always break.
The more ambitious solar engineers and installers become, the more governments support expansion for clean energy. Massive projects like Solar Star and anything that comes after it will be an insight into a future where humanity succeeds in reversing the adverse impacts of the climate crisis.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.