A humungous solar power plant was completed and hooked up to the grid last week in Southern California. The Catalina Solar Photovoltaic Generating Facility, constructed by Bechtel for EDF Renewable Energy, has 110 megawatts (MW) of power capacity. In other words, at maximum output, the power plant could produce 110,000,000 watts of electricity. That’s enough to power 1,100,000 100-watt incandescent light bulbs (of course, it would power a lot more CFLs or LEDs producing the same amount of light).
“The facility will produce enough clean energy to power some 35,000 homes,” Bechtel wrote in a press release.
The Catalina Solar Photovoltaic Generating Facility is EDF Renewable Energy’s largest solar power plant in North America. It’s also one of the largest in the world.
“The successful completion of this project on behalf of EDF Renewable Energy will help make solar more cost competitive with other sources of energy,” said Toby Seay, president of Bechtel’s communications, renewables, and transmission business line. “The build of facilities like Catalina will help spur innovation around solar technologies and strengthen our use of clean, renewable power.”
It’s true. Production of more solar panels and solar power plants results in economies of scale that bring down the price of solar for subsequent customers. This is one key reason the cost of solar power has dropped so tremendously in recent years. Solar power started growing strongly just a handful of years ago due to technological cost cuts and strong governmental incentives. As the market and market-leading companies grew, the costs fell to an even greater degree, thanks to simple economies of scale. Naturally, that spurred on even greater growth, which spurred on more cost cuts… and so on and so on.
This is why about ⅔ of the solar power in the world was sold within the last 2½ years or so. And this is partly why solar power capacity in the US, China, Europe, India, and elsewhere is projected to skyrocket in the coming years. The bottom line is: solar power now beats the price of electricity for millions or even billions of people and businesses.
Clearly, it made financial sense to build the massive 110-MW solar power plant mentioned above (the sixth-largest in the world at the moment), as well as several others like it that are much bigger than any solar PV power plants in existence just a few years ago. Aside from this power plant, Bechtel notes that it is in the midst of building the California Valley Solar Ranch, one of the world’s largest photovoltaic facilities currently under construction, clocking in at a whopping 250 megawatts.
Such massive projects require large investments, careful financial planning, and a solid return on investment. But the wonderful thing about solar is that it isn’t just for big companies or people with big pockets. The building blocks of solar projects are solar panels. Those solar panels can also be put on one’s roof and provide a sweet return on investment.
Solar power is an inherently distributed and “democratic” electricity option that allows long-term (or even medium- and short-term thinkers) to get financial benefit out of an environmentally beneficial technology.
And it doesn’t just make sense in California. It makes sense all across the United States.
So, the question shouldn’t be: “When am I going to be powered by a giant solar power plant?” It should be: “How much can I save by going solar today?” As you must have gathered by now, we can help you to answer that question.