Before going into the largest solar farms in the world, let’s see why solar energy is becoming popular and why are we turning towards new, renewable sources of energy.
You probably know that people have always tried to harvest natural resources.
Solar energy is not a new invention, but the need to shift to other energy sources made scientists and researchers look for improved and better ways of utilizing the abundant energy of the sun.
There are many solar power plants in the world, and some are really huge.
In this article, we will present the 10 largest ones.
Why Are We Turning to Solar Power?
The demand for fossil fuels is high and grows nonstop; yet, scientists estimate that fossil fuels won’t last long.
It’s estimated that in another 50 years all our reserves will be empty.
Unplanned deforestation has affected the atmosphere and increased the amount of carbon dioxide, which greatly contributes to climate change and global warming.
When we burn fossil fuels, we get energy but also release harmful gases into the atmosphere.
These gases are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and a large number of dust particles.
Cardiac and respiratory disease patients are the worst affected by these pollutants.
Cities like Beijing and Delhi are suffering from the consequences of global consumerism.
So, if we deplete all the fossil fuels, what will we use to power our homes, means of transportation, factories, airplanes, and so much more?
We can solve deforestation by planting trees.
Yet, we cannot do anything to replace or replenish fossil fuels, as it took thousands and millions of years for our planet to make them.
So the need of the hour is a worldwide solar energy project.
All research then points towards nature, towards an energy source that is abundant, renewable, and free.
We need to move towards solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy.
Which Are the Largest Solar Farms in the World?
At the 2015 Paris Agreement, all participating countries pledged to contain global temperature increase in this century.
The concerned countries are to keep it below 2 degrees Celsius.
The action plan is to decrease carbon emissions by investing in sustainable resources.
Other actions to be taken are spreading awareness and helping developing countries to adhere to environmental protection policies.
Thus, solar farms are built as a new source of clean energy.
They’re also supposed to gradually phase out the burning of fossil fuels.
We already know that solar farms are spread over vast areas of land.
Therefore here, we’re going to discuss these large solar farms.
1. Tengger Desert Solar Park
The Zhongwei power supply company, Tengger Desert Solar Park, is located in Zhongwei, Ningxia, China.
At present, it is the biggest solar plant and the largest solar energy generator.
Owned by the Zhongwei Power Supply Company and China National Grid, the Tengger solar system supplies energy to over 600,000 homes.
Photovoltaic panels spread over an area of 43 km2 generating about 1540 MW of electricity.
Tengger desert solar park started electricity production at full capacity in 2016.
2. Bhadla Solar Park, India
The Bhadla solar park in Bhadla covers an area of 40 km2.
This solar power plant is projected to generate 2250 MW of electricity.
At present, Bhadla solar park has a power generation capacity of 1510 MW.
3. Shakti Sthala Pavagada Solar Park
The Pavagada solar park is in the Tumakuru district of Karnataka in India.
It is developed by the Indian National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Karnataka Solar Park Development Corporation Limited (KSPDCL).
Its installed capacity is a whopping 2000 MW.
It’s built on an area of 52.5 square kilometers covering 5 villages.
After facing years of drought conditions, 2300 farmers rented their lands and built this huge solar park.
4. Noor Abu Dhabi
A solar photovoltaic power plant was built in Suwaihan, in the United Arab Emirates.
Built over 8 square kilometers of land, it is projected to generate 1170 MW of electricity.
It has 3.2 million solar panels installed.
5. Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park, India
Kurnool ultra mega solar park is located in Andhra Pradesh.
It’s built on arid land.
The solar energy corporation covers an area of 23 km2 and generates 1000 megawatts of electricity.
The ultra mega solar park has over four million solar panels installed.
Electricity generated by this solar park on a bright day is +/- 8 million kWh.
6. Datong Solar Power Top Runner Base, China
Shaped like a giant panda, the Datong solar power plant will be built in 3 phases.
In the 1st phase, the solar farm covers 1 km2 and generated 50 MW of electricity in 2017.
The Panda Solar Power Plant installed capacity generates 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours (1000 MW) of electricity.
In its final phase, it will cover an area of about 6 square kilometers.
7. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China
Longyangxia generates 850 MW of electricity.
This solar power plant covers an area of 25 square kilometers.
It consists of four million solar panels.
The farm is found in the Qinghai province.
8. Villanueva Solar Park, Mexico
One of the biggest solar power plants in the world is in Coahuila, Mexico.
It consists of 2.3 million solar panels over a land area of 12 Km2.
This is the largest solar plant after those in China and India.
The panels in this farm move along with the movement of the sun to get maximum light.
The photovoltaic plant in Viesca, Coahuila, can generate up to 828 MW of electricity.
Once completed, the facility will be able to generate 1700 GWh/year.
9. Rewa Ultra Mega Solar, India
This solar farm is situated in the Gurh administrative unit of Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh, India.
This plant can produce 750 MW of electricity.
Its total area is about 7 km2.
The Delhi metro rail receives energy from this solar plant as a part of its green initiative.
This also is the first locomotive in the world to be 100% running on a sustainable resource.
10. Charanka Solar Park, India
Charanka Solar Park is situated in Charanka village, in the Patan district of Gujarat, India.
It’s built on arid land.
Its total capacity is estimated at 790 MW.
The 10 largest solar farms discussed here are all photovoltaic plants.
Here is one example of the other type of solar farm.
Noor Complex Solar Power Plant, Morocco
Noor Complex Solar Power Plant is built in the Sahara desert.
It’s the largest concentrated solar power plant.
After its completion in 2022, it’s expected to generate 580 megawatts of electricity.
This solar farm is being built in 3 phases.
Noor was built in the first phase and is functional at 160 MW.
Which Natural Resources Can We Use to Generate Electricity?
Apart from the fact that fossil fuels won’t last forever, a significant concern is that the burning of fossil fuels contributes mainly to environmental pollution.
Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, along with dust particles released in the atmosphere, lead to the ‘greenhouse effect.’
It adversely affects the health of human beings.
Especially those suffering from respiratory and cardiac problems.
Thus all our research is directed towards more sustainable sources of energy, clean energy.
A source of energy, which will not only meet our current needs but also will be available in the future.
Biomass is a useful source of energy (biofuel and biogas) if produced from wastes.
But the emphasis is on less waste rather than recycling waste.
Here are some of the ways we can tap energy from nature without damaging it.
1. Solar Energy
Sun’s energy radiates to the earth.
It sustains all life here.
It’s estimated that the solar energy we receive on earth is so much.
Note that if we tap all of it for 24 hours, we can have electricity for 24 years.
Now that may be a bit exaggerated, but we get the idea, right?
After much experimentation, photovoltaic panels were invented that could trap solar energy and also convert it into electricity.
These photovoltaic panels were expensive at first.
But with continued innovation, the price became more affordable contributing to its popularity.
Solar thermal plants can also produce electricity from sun rays.
The sunlight is used to heat a liquid, which in turn transfers the heat to water.
The water starts boiling and turns to steam.
This steam is used to rotate a turbine, and the movement generates electricity.
The concept is taken from steam locomotive engines.
The steam, instead of burning fuel, propels the engine forward.
It’s said that at present, solar power ranks third in terms of generating global electricity needs from natural resources.
2. Wind Energy
We discussed earlier that once the turbine moves, it starts generating electricity.
Thus came the idea to harness a huge source of energy, which is wind.
It can move water and cause waves, move sailboats, hot air balloons, and windmills.
Thus, wind turbines were adapted to produce electricity
Wind farms can be set up both on land and in the sea.
The electricity generated from wind is currently higher than from solar energy.
3. Geothermal Energy
We have several places on earth, where we can find steam escaping from the earth.
This is underground water heated by the magma below.
Taking its name after the source of energy, the escaping steam is tapped and channeled towards turbines, which move and produce electricity.
This source of energy is not found everywhere.
But it has been proven useful to people living in the vicinity.
Geothermal stations are possible along the edges of the tectonic plates.
Also, the emission of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide is associated with the production of electricity from geothermal energy.
People living near geothermal stations complain of tremors, which are caused by the human probe in the deep earth.
4. Hydro Energy
Another natural resource is moving water, which is used to rotate a turbine that produces electricity.
This moving water can be released from dams.
Fifty percent of the world’s electricity need is met by generating hydroelectricity.
In recent times, it has been associated with endangering aquatic life.
Why Is Solar Energy Most Popular?
There are several reasons why solar power is the dominant alternative source of energy.
Wind and water movements cannot be predicted exactly every time.
But we can be sure that the sun will shine in the sky during the day.
With advanced technology, solar panels work even when it’s cloudy.
However, its performance will not be at its optimum level.
The concept was commercialized long ago.
But, it’s only in recent years that it has gained widespread acceptance because of its commercial viability
1. It’s Much Cheaper Now Than When It Was First Introduced
If you can afford a car, you can also afford a solar panel system.
Solar panels have yet to reach the vast majority of people in developing countries.
The day is not far away when it will be so cheap that people will opt for it as it’s a no-hassle one-time investment.
We’re already using photovoltaic cells in calculators, which are present in almost all households.
Solar lights and solar mobile phone chargers are gaining popularity.
A solar-powered device is a necessity, especially while traveling, hiking, or camping.
The use of LED light has reduced the consumption of electricity.
Thus, the overall cost of solar power utilization becomes much less than using traditionally generated electricity.
2. No Regular Maintenance Needed
Yearly servicing mainly consists of cleaning the solar panels and changing wires.
Photovoltaic panels on average have a lifespan of about 25 years.
It might retain its efficiency even after that time.
3. Solar Power Is Free
We know that the sun rises and sets at known intervals.
Furthermore, it will always shine upon the earth during the day.
Therefore, the source of sunlight is constant and free.
This renewable source of energy is also clean.
There is no emission of harmful substances.
4. Lowers Electricity Bills
Also, if we reduce energy consumption, it can mean no utility bill every month.
Moreover, we can even sell the surplus to the electrical grid.
In the long run, this will be beneficial to the owners.
5. Increases the Value of a Home
Modern buyers tend to buy homes, which will not be an added strain on their wallets in the long run.
This is why a building with an installed solar power system has a higher market value.
6. Subsidies To Buy Solar Power Generation Units
If some part of the daily consumption is met by the individual’s generation of electricity, the central power grid has to supply less power.
Thus, less fuel is burned, which will also cause less pollution.
Solar-powered electricity generator draws energy from an inexhaustible resource.
This process does not generate any toxic substance.
It will help to conserve the environment for future generations.
Keeping this in mind, governments are introducing policies to encourage citizens to generate and manage their power requirements.
7. Habitat for Animals and Plants
The solar farms consist of rows of solar panels.
Grass can be grown on the land, between the rows, and surrounded by hedges.
Thus, animals can graze uninterrupted.
Many endemic plants will take root taking advantage of the shade that the solar panels will provide.
8. Good Use Of Deserted Land
The solar farms are usually built upon barren lands, deserts, or where there is scarce rainfall for long periods.
Thus, it benefits the local people by providing an alternative source of income.
9. Reduced Carbon Emissions
It’s estimated that all electricity generation done by alternative means, that is by not burning fossil fuel, to date has reduced carbon emission by thousands of tonnes.
Reduced carbon emission means reduced pollution and better health for all.
Are There Different Types of Solar Farms?
They’re also known as solar parks.
While traveling, you may have come across a vast piece of land full of photovoltaic panels.
You may also see mirrors and lenses.
These are solar farms, which generate a huge amount of electricity.
They provide electricity to the power grid for distribution.
The administration of the solar farm is decentralized
The Two Types of Solar Farms
These farms are not individually owned.
They’re run either by a group or by the government.
People invest in it and receive electricity and tax benefits.
The investors also do not have to worry about installation or maintenance.
This is taken care of by the committee members.
Utility-Scale Solar Farms
As the name suggests, these farms provide electricity to the power grid rather than to individuals.
They utilize vast areas of barren land or deserts to set up PV panels.
Companies with very high energy consumption can have their solar farms either near their establishments or at a remote place.
At the solar farms, the photovoltaic panels or the lenses are mounted on the ground.
This makes them capable of covering a large space.
What Are the Disadvantages of Solar Farms?
Although solar energy farms can solve many of our problems, there are a few disadvantages we have to consider.
Let’s check them out.
1. Solar farms are built over a huge area and sometimes agricultural lands are covered by the panels.
This alters the landscape.
2. Setting up a solar farm entails huge costs, with the promise of the return of investment in the distant future.
3. The weather affects energy generation, especially during winter or on cloudy days when the PV panel efficiency drops a little.
4. We don’t have an efficient storage system for the generated electricity, which then should be used immediately.
5. Photovoltaic panels contain toxic materials, which are harmful to the environment.
Therefore, utmost care should be taken while handling and disposing of these PV panels.
It’s good to know that if recycled properly, more than 90% of the materials used to make PV panels can be recovered.
Concentrated Solar Power Vs Photovoltaic Panels
Solar Farms generate electricity either by concentrating the sunlight or through photovoltaic panels.
PV panels can generate electricity from sunlight.
We learned at school that when sunlight is concentrated through a magnifying glass, it can burn the paper.
This principle of concentrating sunlight through a lens is also used at solar farms to generate electricity.
These are known as concentrated solar thermal (CST)systems or power systems, where the concentrated sunlight heats a liquid that heats the water.
This water turns into steam at high heat.
The steam generated then works on a turbine that produces electricity.
This converts movement energy to electrical energy.
The CST systems are expensive compared to photovoltaic (PV) panels.
Moreover, CST systems need direct sunlight to work, while PV panels work well even when the sky is covered with clouds.
The advantage of the CST or CSP system is that it works even at night.
This is done by using its thermal system to store energy and generate electricity even during the night.
The PV panels do not work at night or during a long spell of snowy winter.
All said PV panels are cheap and easy to install and thus more popular between the two.
Natural resources are free, abundant, and renewable.
However, the price of installation and maintenance of the natural energy tapping devices, though decreasing, is still out of reach for most people.
Again wind and water energy are not available continuously.
The sunlight is not available at night.
Our batteries are not that effective in storing energy for long periods.
Therefore, for an uninterrupted power supply, power generation from fossil fuel is inevitable until everybody makes a conscious change towards more sustainable living.
Governments now ensure basic amenities like electricity to all citizens.
This has directly contributed to the betterment of the living standards of people.
To be able to stop generating energy from fossil fuels, governments need people to generate their sustainable resources.
Until the installation and storage infrastructures are easily affordable and available, it will be very difficult to adapt to the self-sufficient energy production mindset.
At least, a conventional power source will continue to dominate the power sector rather than just complementing it.
It’s predicted that fossil fuel will continue to be a major source of energy for another 20 years
That is even with conscious changes towards environment protection and conservation,
At least, 50% of all energy requirements will still be met by coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
On a positive note, our civilization has survived through the stone age, the bronze age, and the iron age.
We still have abundant stone, bronze, and iron in nature.
Similarly, we will evolve and adapt to other resources, and there will be plenty of fossil fuels still available in nature.