Defining solar farm sizes and how large-scale projects can impact clean energy initiatives
Utility-scale solar is a term used to describe large-scale solar installations that are connected to the electric grid, providing power for a utility’s customers. These projects rely on photovoltaic (PV) technology and have a wide range of sizes, measured in megawatts (MW).
Typically between 5 and 500 MW, utility-scale PV systems are larger than residential and commercial and industrial systems. Some can exceed a staggering 1000 MW! With residential PV systems the smallest in size, usually under 10 kW, commercial PV systems span the gap between residential and utility-scale systems. AlsoEnergy categorizes sites above 20 MWdc who use our utility solar monitoring and control technology solutions as a utility-scale solar project.
Of course, these estimates of clarifying that a project is truly a utility-scale project depend on many factors, including the site location, interconnection type, voltage, local state policies, and where the solar power is ultimately sold and how.
But the key to defining utility-scale solar projects is that they are designed to sell the power they generate directly to the electric grid. Utility-scale solar farms are defined as being front-of-the-meter since all electricity is produced off-site and then passes through a power meter. For these large-scale utility solar projects, electricity is generated off-site at a local power plant by solar first before being sent to the power meter.
Utility-scale solar is an economic game changer
Large-scale projects have become an increasingly important renewable energy source, offering a clean and cost-effective alternative to traditional sources of electricity. Utility-scale solar projects have the potential to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, create jobs in construction and manufacturing industries, and support economic development in rural areas that are home to these installations. The sheer size of these installations leads to economic game changers for investors, businesses, and communities.
For example, AlsoEnergy is currently providing SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) services for a package of eight utility-scale solar projects in upstate New York, which combined totaled 216 MWdc of new utility-scale solar projects across the state. With the first project of the eight completed in 2022, and the others in construction, they will became the first operational utility-scale solar projects in upstate New York, generating over 500 construction jobs and producing enough energy for 320,000 homes.
This is just one example of how utility-scale solar projects can have a significant economic impact on a community!
Redefining future sustainability goals using utility-scale solar
With this high level of impact, utility-scale solar energy is an important component of the renewable energy mix, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide clean, reliable electricity on a large scale. With larger projects that generate more output, these installations are becoming increasingly cost-competitive and more standard for meeting different states’ future sustainable and clean energy goals. For instance, the eight-pack of utility-solar projects mentioned above will help reach New York’s commitment as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, dedicating that renewable energy sources would generate 70 percent of the electricity consumed in New York by 2030.
The growth of utility-scale solar to meet environmental goals
With these returns, utility-scale projects are increasing across the globe with more than 91 GWdc of large-scale solar projects either under construction or under development according to SEIA.org’s solar project database. And with 91 percent of the global economy now covered by ‘net zero’ pledges of some sort, according to Net Zero Tracker, a global analyst nonprofit, the number of utility-scale projects will continue to rise.
Maximizing the investment of utility-scale solar
But for both investors and communities, maximizing the return of a utility-scale solar investment requires more than just a large-scale PV system. Regardless of the site’s MW-capacity size, a system needs to be controlled, monitored, and have documented proof that it is functioning as designed to deliver the maximum return. As a trusted global leader with a proven track record in Power Plant Control and SCADA, AlsoEnergy empowers businesses to capitalize on the growing utility market by offering a fully vertically-integrated utility solution for all monitoring and control needs.
Ready to learn more?
Read more about utility-scale solar and how the world is using renewable, clean energy:
- How does utility-scale solar work?
- What are the benefits of utility-scale solar?
- How does a control library minimize risk and create business value for utility-scale solar projects?
- Why are non-proprietary components important for utility-scale solar projects?
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