PHOENIX, May 9 (UPI) -- The Agua Caliente Solar Project, which was completed last week, is now operational and poised to start churning out power. Once it does, it will officially be the largest working solar panel array in the world.
The plant, which includes more than 5 million solar panels, is expected to pump out 290 megawatts of electricity. Situated in the Arizona desert between the cities of Yuma and Pheonix, the array is twice the size of Central Park. At full capacity, the new plant will be able to power 230,000 houses.
"Solar has completely arrived as a competitive energy resource," Peter Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office at the Energy Department -- which helped finance the project -- recently told Scientific American. Upon completion at the end of April, Tom Doyle -- president of NRG Solar, the company that owns the new plant -- said Agua Caliente will "raise the bar in terms of our clean-energy technology and production."
The panels that make up the new solar array are more efficient than older ones, as they use thin-film photovoltaic cells instead of silicone. The thin-film cells are cheaper to make; they are also lighter, more flexible, more durable, and more efficient at absorbing the suns rays.
Although solar power only accounts for one percent of U.S. energy production, it is the fastest-growing energy sector. Many energy and environmental policy makers hope that its continued growth can help curb escalating CO2 emissions and beat back the rise of global temperatures.