11 of the Most Impressive Solar Projects Powering Our World
By Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 28 January 2017.
By Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 28 January 2017.
Here in the United States, we need updated infrastructure, but we also need some forward-thinking ways to power it now and into the future. There are plenty of examples out there around the world, many of which are solar-powered. Here's a brief tour of the parts of a sun-driven future that are already here.
1. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China
Located in China's Qinghai province, this is officially the largest solar park in the world, stretching to about 27 square kilometers (or about 10 square miles). This park outputs a whooping 850MW of power. The second largest solar farm by output, India's Kamuthi Solar Power project, puts out nearly 200MW less. Although China is the world's largest polluter, this solar park shows that it can capture enough clean energy from the sun to power nearly 200,000 homes.
2. Cochin International Airport, India
This Indian airport, the seventh busiest in the country, is the first airport in the world to run completely off solar power. In fact, it's not only 100 percent clean energy, its solar farm actually gives back energy to the electrical grid. The solar project, located on what was a veritable wasteland near one of the airport's terminals, has been a years long project. Looks like this solar investment is finally paying off.
3. Solar Star, California, USA
The Solar Star photovoltaic power station near Rosemund, California, isn't just the largest capacity solar park in the United States (and also the western hemisphere), it's also the largest solar installation in the country. It's spread over 13 square kilometers (or 5 square miles) and produces 579MW. The second largest U.S. solar farm, the Topaz Solar Farm, produces 550MW.
4. Solar Panel Bike Path, Krommenie, Netherlands
When the Netherlands installed the first solar powered bike path in 2014, it became a huge success. So much so that France has a plan to build entire solar roads that could provide up to 8 percent of the energy needs of the entire country. Japan is taking a similar approach, but instead applying the idea to water and creating the world's largest floating solar panel. It just goes to show that a small green energy project can have a huge impact.
5. Solar "Tindo" Bus, Adelaide, Australia
In 2013, the city of Adelaide in South Australia put the first fully solar-powered public transit bus into commission. Called the "Tindo," which is aboriginal for Sun, the bus can travel 125 miles before needing to recharge, which is does at a base station at the Adelaide Central Bus station. It also provides free wi-fi and A/C for up to 40 passengers.
6. Canal Solar Power Project, Gujarat, India
Credit: Hitesh vip/Wikimedia Commons
This solar project ingeniously kills two birds with one stone. Beginning as a pilot project, these strategically placed solar panels placed over canals not only provide much needed electricity but also keeps millions of gallons of water from evaporating annually. With water shortages and erratic access to reliable energy being two major problems for India, this inventive project seems like a doubly fantastic idea.
7. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Nevada, USA
Many of the solar projects on this list are firsts, or perhaps the biggest of their kind. Although the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is a first of sorts - the first concentrating solar power plant with a central receiver tower - this project is on this list because it's the coolest-looking solar plant around. Its circular design with one central tower makes it look more like an archaic temple to a sun god - a fitting design for any solar power station.
8. Tokelau Renewable Energy Project, Tokelau
The pacific island of Tokelau, a relative speck of a country, is the first in the world to be completely solar powered. Built in 2012, this solar project provides all of the country's energy needs for its 1,500 residents spread across three atolls. The country was once 100 percent dependent on diesel fuel, but this solar project makes Tokelau completely diesel free. In fact, the project was so successful that the neighboring island of Ta'u, in the American Samoa, completed a similar project with SolarCity in 2016, preventing 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. These tiny islands will be the first major benefactors of a sun-only existence.
9. Vanguard 1
Of course not every solar revolution is a 21st century creation. The first satellite powered completely by solar cells was NASA's Vanguard 1 launched in 1958. To this day, it remains in orbit as the oldest man-made object in space. This small achievement sparked a trend of using solar energy for space vehicles, many of which have been solar powered for nearly 60 years.
10. Solar Impulse
Solar Impulse is the brainchild of Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg and Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. Its first flight began in December 2009, and the subsequent Solar Impulse 2 completed an entire journey around the world using just solar power in July 2016. Of course, the plane is little more than a proof of concept, but it shows that air travel is possible using just the power of the sun, leading to a possible future where airlines no longer pollute the skies.
Of course, Solar Impulse owes much of its legacy to other solar experiments like the MacCready Solar Challenger, which flew on solar power from France to England in 1981, as well as NASA's Helios project.
11. Arco Solar, California, USA
This solar power station, created in the rush of increased research into alternative fuels after the 1973 oil crisis, was the world's first photovoltaic system to reach a 1-megawatt capacity in 1982. Although the first, it certainly wasn't the best, with Arco selling off the money-losing plants in 1990. However, these early plants were just the beginning of bigger and better solar farms that are slowly dotting the globe. It's a kind of alternative energy science race among nations, a race toward a goal that everyone can get behind.
Top image: The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Nevada, USA. Credit: SolarReserve.
[Source: Popular Mechanics. Edited. Some images and links added.]