Coal is king in the United States. The state of Colorado currently receives more than 70% of its electricity from coal. However, upcoming years could see a new sheriff in town as solar power plants exponentially increase in size and capacity to produce 1,000 – 5,000 MW of electricity in the upcoming decade.
To provide some context in comparison to solar energy generation, the Comanche Coal Power Plant in Pueblo, CO features three operational units (Comanche 1: 325 MW – Comanche 2: 335 MW – Comanche 3: 750 MW) that produce a total of 1,410 MW.
Until 2009, the largest solar power plants produced under 100 MW. Spain’s Andasol Solar Power Station features Europe’s first large scale parabolic trough solar power plant. In 2009, the Andasol 2 solar power plant came online and added 50 MW to the existing 50 MW of Andasol 1 for a total capacity of 100 MW.
2010 saw the completion of the Solnova Solar Power Station in Spain with a 150 MW installed capacity and the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) solar power plant in the United States with a capacity of 354 MW. Situated in California’s Mojave Desert, the SEGS solar power plant features nine parabolic trough power plants totaling 354 MW.
The Blythe Solar Power Project in the Mojave desert on BLM land is scheduled to be completed in 2013 and will provide 1,000 MegaWatts (MW) or 1 GigaWatt (GW) of electricity. This will almost triple the current largest solar power plant capacity in 3 years. The United States and South Africa are currently in a race for the first 1 GW solar power project.
With the exponential growth of solar energy expected to continue as new technologies and efficiencies are achieved, it appears there’s a new solar sheriff in town.
.. .. ..
For more information visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) website: http://www.nrel.gov/solar/news/