solar power plant
June 14, 2018

When talking about solar power, we typically hear the terms residential or commercial solar. These types of solar generate electricity for your home or business. So what is utility-scale solar and what does it do?


Utility-scale solar facilities vary in size. They can range from producing a mere 1 megawatt to a whopping 377 megawatts of solar power. The best way to define utility-scale solar is not by size, but rather by function.


In that case, utility-scale solar works by generating solar power and feeding it into the grid, supplying a utility with energy. This is different than Distributed Generation (DG) solar energy because the size of the project is much larger and the electricity that is generated is sold to wholesale utility buyers and not end-use consumers.


The utility-scale solar facility and the utility will decide on a power purchase agreement (PPA), this is designed to ensure that there is a market for the energy the facility creates for a fixed amount of time, usually from 10 to 25 years.


Utility-scale solar facilities have an important impact on the environment. They are silent and do not produce harmful and toxic emissions such as CO2.


According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the installation of 4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) in the Southwest (comparable to eight coal-fired power plants) will prevent 7.6 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. The development of utility-scale solar facilities also creates jobs in various fields from construction to engineering to project finance.


So what does utility-scale solar look like in the U.S. today? According to the SEIA, approximately 528 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) are in operation across the U.S. There are large photovoltaic plants operating across the country as well, totaling 2,892 MW. Not only that, 4.3 million households have the potential to be powered by more than 26,000 MW of utility-scale solar power projects that are being developed in the U.S. right now.

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