The world’s largest solar power plant has gone online in California, with enough power to supply 160,000 homes.
Spanning a huge 9.5 square miles (25 square km) – a third of the size of Manhattan – the Topaz Solar Farm consists of nine million solar panels and has a capacity of 550 megawatts.
And it is a major step towards the state’s goals of supplying 33 per cent of electricity to homes from renewable sources by 2020.
The mammoth $2.5 billion (£1.5 billion) project is located in California’s Carrizo Plain, in southeastern San Luis Obispo County.
Construction began back in 2011 but now, with the installation of the final 40 megawatt segment, it is now the first 500-plus megawatt solar farm to come online in the US.
And, at a total of 550 megawatts, it is also the largest solar plant online in the world.
The power it produces takes the place of 377,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually – equivalent to taking 73,000 cars off the road.
Construction was actually due to finish in early 2015, so it has been finished ahead of schedule.
Unlike some solar plants, the Topaz requires no water to generate electricity, and it makes very minimal noise as there are no moving parts.
Each of the solar panels stands just five and a half feet (1.7 metres) off the ground, reducing visible impact from the expansive farm.
‘First Solar projects have a low environmental impact,’ the company said.
‘When in operation, our systems generate electricity with no air emissions, no waste production, no water use, and have the smallest carbon footprint of any photovoltaic technology.’
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The Topaz Solar Farm is part of an initiative to make a third of California’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.
The plant will ultimately be usurped by another solar farm in the US next year; SunPower’s Solar Star, also in California, will be capable of producing 579 megawatts.