Utility-scale solar has been generating reliable, clean energy with a stable fuel price for more than two decades. Solar power plants can be developed in a way that balances environmental protection with our energy demands. By enacting federal policies to accelerate growth of utility-scale solar, we can create jobs nationwide and quickly diversify America’s energy portfolio. It’s also clear that the United States needs to do more to address the problem of climate change, and do so quickly. The solar industry is ready now to deploy clean energy, and developing utility-scale solar power is one of the fastest ways to reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere.
A utility-scale solar power plant can be one of several solar technologies – concentrating solar power (CSP), photovoltaics (PV), or concentrating photovoltaics (CPV). What distinguishes utility-scale solar from distributed generation is project size and the fact that the electricity is sold to wholesale utility buyers, not end-use consumers. Utility-scale solar plants provide the benefit of fixed-priced electricity during peak demand periods when electricity from fossil fuels is the most expensive.
Many utility-scale solar designs can also include built-in storage capacity that provides power even when the sun is not shining, like traditional power plants. Utility customers have repeatedly endorsed investments in utility-scale solar plants. Nine concentrating solar power plants, totaling 354 megawatts (MW), have been in operation near Kramer Junction, Calif., for the past 18 years. Since 2006, six new CSP plants were constructed.
Large photovoltaic plants operate across the country as well, totaling 152 MW. And more solar power is on the way: more than 23,000 MW of utility-scale solar power projects are under development in the U.S., enough to power more than 4.4 million households.
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across the United States.
By enacting federal policies to accelerate the growth of utility-scale solar, we can create jobs nationwide and quickly diversify America’s energy portfolio. Utility-scale solar will create jobs across the supply chain, from R&D and engineering to manufacturing and project finance to development and construction. This job creation and related economic activity is occurring not only in the Southwest, where most utility-scale solar power plants are located, but also in the heart of the Midwest’s manufacturing region. Currently more than 23,000 MW of utility-scale solar projects are under development. When complete, these power plants are expected to create more than 100,000 jobs.
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Installation of 4 GW of CSP in the Southwest (comparable to eight coal-fired power plants) will result in 7.6 million tons of CO2 not being emitted into the atmosphere. Utility-scale solar power plants do not produce toxic emissions like mercury, smog-forming chemicals, particulate matter, or greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, NOX and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Deploying 4 GW of solar power in California could save consumers between $60 million and $240 million per year in the cost of natural gas typically used to generate electricity.