It stands to reason that the Nevada desert is an ideal place for a solar-power installation. Open space and sun abound. A site that recently opened there is being billed as the nation’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant.
In March, San Diego-based energy company, Sempra Generation, along with Nevada officials, unveiled the Copper Mountain facility in Boulder City, Nev. The 48-megawatt (MW) site is located on 380 desert acres about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
The project came together quickly. Construction began in January 2010, and the plant came online in December 2010.
Renewable Energy World magazine named the installation “Solar Project of the Year” as part of the 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards. It consists of more than 750,000 thin-film PV solar panels that generate enough electricity to power approximately 14,000 homes.
With its 48-MW capacity, Copper Mountain easily outdistances the next biggest plant, New Mexico’s Cimarron Solar Facility, which has a 30-MW capacity. That plant also came online in 2010.
However, neither facility is particularly impressive by worldwide standards. According to pvresources.com, Copper Mountain is only ninth on the global list. The top distinction goes to Canada’s Sarnia PV power plant in Sarnia, Ontario, which has a capacity of 97 MW.
This is not Sempra’s first attempt to harness the plentiful rays of Nevada. Copper Mountain sits adjacent to the company’s El Dorado Solar installation, which also is in Boulder City. That installation has a capacity of 10 MW, but Sempra is considering expanding the facility in the future.