Sunny days: The world's biggest solar energy projects


Published February 25, 2015

Countries are competing to build the largest solar power plants


Countries are competing to build the largest solar power plants

Clean energy is hot.

A groundswell of support for renewable power has sprung up around the world over the past several years, with governments, utilities and corporations racing to deploy or purchase green electricity.

Solar power is among the technologies leading the energy market in new deployments. In the U.S. last year, 36% of all new electric capacity came from solar, and the cost to deploy it has dropped more than 63% since 2010. In many U.S. states and in nations around the world, it's as cheap to use solar power as it is to buy electricity generated through coal-fired power plants.

Corporations are taking note. For example, Apple last month announced it would invest close to $1 billion in a solar power plant being built by First Solar in California; the move rocketed Apple past Walmart as the largest corporate user of solar power. Venture capitalists, too, are investing in renewables to the tune of $310 billion last year. Put simply, solar power is no longer just the bastion of crunchy granola types and companies hoping to improve their public image. 

The global installed capacity of solar electricity has increased six-fold between 2010 and 2013, from 23 gigawatts (1GW is a billion watts) to 180GW.

Utility-scale solar power plants are still larger than private installations, which typically offer far less cpacity. As adoption increases, governments and utilities are in a race to see who can build the largest plants the fastest. India is planning a series of solar parks that will produce 10,000MW of solar power, and both India and China plan on deploying 100GW of new solar power between now and 2022. 

Here are the world's largest solar power plants, as well as a look at a few other projects that will top the list in coming years.