The biggest ‘solar parks’ now have around 2 GW (2,000 MW) of generating capacity and are expanding towards 5 GW. However, as described in last week’s blog, this power output is supplied by several – often dozens – of separate solar plants, typically of 10 to 250 MW each.
A solar plant is an individual generating station, designed by a single developer (or consortium) and usually with a single export connection to the grid. It may in some cases be configured on several nearby plots of land, and large solar power plants are often built in phases. This blog looks at the largest of these individual solar power stations, highlighting those over 500 MW.
Sweihan Independent Power Project
This plant in Abu Dhabi in the UAE is still under construction, but at 938 MWAC, it is expected to become the world’s largest plant, when commissioned later this year.
The development led by Marubeni and JinkoSolar adopts shallow tilt angles with the arrays (totalling 1,177 MWP) oriented towards east and west. As this aerial view of the plant under construction shows, this configuration achieves a very high packing density on the 800 Ha site.
1. Yanchi Solar Park
China hosts the largest plants currently operating; led by the so-called Yanchi Solar Park just south of Gaoshawo in Ninxia’s Yanchi district. Its 1 GWP solar arrays gives it an output of about 820 MW. The plant has been operational since 2016. Despite the name, it is not a ‘solar park’, as we would define it below.
2. Datong ‘Front Runner’
Further east, in Shanxi Province, another 800 MW (1 GWP) project has been installed in the Datong district, as part of China’s demonstration programme for projects at this scale. The solar array is distributed on hilltops over a wide area, making them hard to see on satellite images (even when bordered in white as on this partial view).
Another project of similar size is located around Ili in Xinjiang, but as it is spread over such a wide area, we have not included it as a single plant in this list. Nor do we include a further GWP around Alashan in Inner Mongolia.
In Qinghai Province, the 697 MW Longyangxia Solar-Hydro attained its name, because it is connected to the hydro station at the dam on nearby Longyangxia Lake. It became the largest in the world when the second phase was connected in 2014 by China Power Investment (now called the State Power Investment Corporation). The plant is bordered in white on this view, with other projects visible to the north west.
4. Kamuthi Solar Power Project
India’s largest solar power station was built by Adani in the State of Tamil Nadu in 2016. The Kamuthi Solar Power Plant covers nearly 1,200 hectares and has an AC capacity of 648 MW.
Mexico stole the mantle for America’s largest solar project, when phase III of the Villanueva plant was completed last November. It now has an operational capacity of 640 MW. The plant is still being expanded in Coahuila state by Italy’s ENEL Green Power.
6. Solar Star
The USA’s largest solar plant is located in Antelope Valley, California, alongside several other PV plants. It is edged in white to distinguish it on this view. Solar Star was constructed in two phases in 2013-2014, using Sunpower Corporation modules. It has a total capacity of 579 MW and is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group.
Back to China for no. 8, this multi-phase plant is clustered around Hongshagangzhen in Gansu province. It was built by China Singyes, with at least 574 MW operational, and an eventual capacity of 820 MW.
At 550 MW, First Solar’s Topaz project was briefly the USA’s largest plant when commissioned in 2014. It is built on the Carrizo Plain in central California, and coincidentally incorporates the site where the world’s first multi-megawatt solar project was built in the 1980’s.
In the valleys to the east of Ninxia’s capital Yinchuan (and partly shown on this satellite image) is another conglomeration of hillside arrays. The Yinchuan Xinqing project has a total capacity just over 500 MW, and was installed in mid-2018.
10. NP Kunta Greenko
The largest PV plant in one of the solar parks listed last week is the 500 MW station built in 2017 for Greenko Energy in the Anantapur Solar Park.
Discover Philip Wolfe’s guide to the world’s largest solar power stations and the world’s largest solar parks
About the author
Philip Wolfe has been active in the renewables arena since the 1970s and is the founder of Wiki-Solar. His book on utility-scale solar was published in 2012 and one on the early years of the terrestrial PV sector was published last year.
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