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World’s Largest Solar Plant Could Power 230,000 Homes

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NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar unveiled the new king in solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities this week.

Located on 2,400 acres of land between Yuma and Phoenix, AZ, Agua Caliente is now operational as the world's largest PV solar facility in the world. The 290-megawatt (MW) project uses solar energy to avoid the annual emission of about 324,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—equivalent to taking nearly 70,000 cars off the road.

Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, NRG and MidAmerican sell solar power to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. At peak capacity, the plant will generate enough energy to power 230,000 homes.

NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar announced the completion of Agua Caliente, the world's largest photovoltaic solar facility at 290 megawatts. The Arizona plant sells clean power to Pacific Gas & Electric Company under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Photo credit: Business Wire/NRG Energy

NRG was also involved in another record-setting solar project this year—the launch of Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar thermal power plant.

“Proving that we can build both the world’s largest solar thermal and now one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic facilities advance NRG’s mission to reshape the energy landscape that is incredibly beneficial to both the economy and in how we produce and consume energy," Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar, said in a statement.

FirstSolar designed and constructed the project using advanced thin-film PV modules and will operate and maintain the facility for NRG and MidAmerican Solar. Peter W. Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) said the energy companies received a $967 million loan guarantee for Agua Caliente. In a blog post for the U.S. Department of Energy, Davidson displayed pride in aiding clean energy.

"Despite the strong and consistent public demand for greater development of solar energy, these achievements seemed more aspirational than attainable in 2009, given the state of financial markets at the time," Davidson wrote. "However, with the help of loan guarantees, these projects were able to move forward.

"We aren’t done yet. By the end of next year, we expect all five solar PV plants in our portfolio to be completed with a combined capacity of 1,510 MW—enough to power more than a quarter million average American homes."

Agua Caliente, located in Yuma County, AZ, is now the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the world. Photo credit: NRG Energy

Agua Caliente is the largest of 10 operational utility-scale solar PV facilities in three states that NRG has an ownership interest in. By this time next year, it may no longer be the largest PV plant, as work continues on another MidAmerican project, the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

“In 2012, our company made a commitment to invest in its first utility-scale solar project to foster economic development while demonstrating our commitment to the environment,” said Richard Weech, chief financial officer of MidAmerican Renewables.

“It is exciting to see this project become fully operational and begin to realize the full benefit of emissions savings with the clean energy generated at Agua Caliente.” 

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