It’s hard to believe the generation of electricity through solar is over 70 years old and yet we are only just starting to see solar farms popping up all over the world.
Actually, ‘popping up’ makes it sound like they are just tiny solar arrays being privately run, but that is not the case.
One of the biggest solar farms in the world contains seven million solar panels!
That is a lot of power!
So, let’s have a look at the biggest solar farms in world and what kind of power they produce.

1. Golmud Solar Park — China

Golmud Solar Park

With nearly 1.5 billion people to cater for, China needs to explore every form of power production as well as trying to move to renewables.
And they are certainly investing, as this whopping great facility cost around £479 million to build, has nearly seven million panels installed and stretches across 2 sites.
Golmund Park currently has a generation capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, and they are hoping to extend that to 16 gigawatts over the coming years, which is enough to power one million UK homes!
Size: 640 acres (2.59 km2)
Potential Output: 2.8 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 1.4 million a year

2. Bhadla Solar Park – India

Bhadla Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

This solar park is in the middle of the dessert in Northeast India – Jodhpur district, Rajasthan to be exact.
The area has been described as ‘almost unliveable” due to its 46 to 48 °C temperatures, hot winds and frequently occurring sandstorms – so no NIMBYs stopping the construction here. The nearest village is the lovely named Bap, which is 31 miles away.
The site started construction in 2016 and was producing power in 2017, after 3 more stages of power production coming online over the next few years, Bhadla Park is now kicking out 2.2 GW.
Not bad for a cool 1.4 billion-dollar investment.
Size: 14,000 acres (56 km2)
Potential Output: 2.3 GW
Tons of CO2e saved:   15 million tons over the lifetime of the plant

3. Pavagada Solar Park – India

Pavagada Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

Finding information on this huge installation is a bit of a mare, but only because the way the Indian energy sector work is based on auctions and bidding.
Pavagada has 6 different businesses operating it and generates just over 2 gigawatts of power.
The site was leased to the Indian government by peanut farmer Venkeapream who has since retired and is now perfecting his skills on the electric harmonium!

Size: 13,000 acres (52.6 km2)
Potential Output: 2.05 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 20 million tons per year

4. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park — UAE

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

Now, we wouldn’t expect to find the world’s 4th larges solar farm to be located in the one of the most oil rich countries on Earth – but here we are in the UAE!
The money invested in this colossal project is quite eye-watering, currently sitting at almost 12 billion pounds!
The first phase was commissioned in 2013 and they have been four more since in 2017, 2 in 2020 and 2021.
There are also plans to add another phase using a CPS, or Concentrated Solar Power, system. This is where daylight is directed towards the panels using mirrors.

Size: 19027.1 acres (77 km2)
Potential Output: predicted 2.08 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 1.4 million a year

5. Benban Solar Park — Egypt

Benban Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

Benban is the largest solar farm in Africa and is located in the western desert in Egypt’s Benban region.
In 2014, the Egyptian government launched their Sustainable Energy Strategy and even roped NASA into finding the best location to for the park – which is probably why it’s visible from space … we are told.
It took a while to secure the funding and construction is still ongoing, but when it is finished it will have cost around 3.5 billion pounds and will have the potential to produce over 4 TWh/yr.

Size: 9192.32 acres (37.2 km2)
Potential Output: predicted 1.8 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 245,015 a year

6. The Tengger Desert Solar Park — China

The Tengger Desert Solar Park – pic Copernicus Sentine

China again!
China is committed to producing 35% of its energy from renewable by 2030 and they are certainly investing the cash.
Located in China’s north-western Ningxia province, construction on this facility started in 2012 and the plant became fully operational in 2017.
Heralded as the largest solar park in the world in 2019, it may have slipped down the rankings a little bit it’s still a seriously massive site, sprawling over 43 square kilometres.
Size: 10625.5 acres (43 km2)
Potential Output: 1.51 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 245,015 a year

7. Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Power Project — Abu Dhabi

Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Power Project

 While the Noor Abu Dhabi site may not be the biggest solar energy farm in the world, it is the biggest single site solar farm.
IT contains a cool 3.2 million solar panels and provides power for 90,000 individuals in Abu Dhabi.
One cool fact about this site is that the cleaning robots travel 1600 km everyday just to keep the panels shiny.
Noor means ‘light’ in Arabic.
Size: 4447.9 acres (8 km2)
Potential Output: 1.2 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 2 million a year

8. Datong Solar Power Top Runner Base — China 

Datong Solar Power Top Runner Base

Datong is currently at number 8 in this list, but it’s not finished yet.
When it is it will be pumping out 3 GW, which will make it one of the biggest solar farms in the world.
Datong was commissioned in 2016 and, at the moment, it is producing an impressive 1.07 GW with another 600 MW site still under construction.
There was some controversy around this site as with rumours of forced Uygur labour being used in its construction. But this is not exclusive to this site.
Size: We don’t know!
Potential Output: 1.7 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: over 1 million

9. Jinchuan Solar Park — China

Jinchuan Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

In terms of land usage, this plant is absolutely humongous – covering nearly a 100 square metre of Chinese desert.
It currently produces nearly a gigawatt but there are 15 additional plants that are scheduled to be built around the Jinchuan site.
As we have said before, China is striding ahead in terms of renewable energy.

Size: 22,000 acre 90 km2
Potential Output: 1 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 885,000

10. Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park – India

Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park – Pic Copernicus Sentine

The Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park is situated around the villages Gani and Sakunala villages in the Kurnool district.
The area is arid and dry so the park has been a fantastic boost for the area, employing over 2,500 people.
The way solar is commissioned in India is slightly different to elsewhere as the sites are auctioned off to companies that wish to development – as a result, this park is managed by several companies.

Size:  24 km2
Potential Output: 1 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 885,000

 11. Yanchi Ningxia Solar Park — China

Yanchi Ningxia Solar Park

There are 2.5 million panels in this bad boy and it’s the first solar farm in our list to be Agrivoltaic.
This means that as well as generating power, the area is used to grow food – in this case goji.
The result has been to transform the whole area from an arid wasteland, to a productive and luscious solar farm.

Size:  information not available
Potential Output: 1 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 885,000

12. Villanueva Plant — Mexico

Villanueva Plant

This is the first plant on our list that is in South America, with Mexico leading the way in renewable energy production.
The Mexican government is aiming to produce up to 50% of their power from renewables by 2030.
Villanueva is located in Coahuila, Mexico and has been developed in multiple stages.
New technology has been employed within the construction of this site to minimise environmental impacts, waste recycling and water consumption.
Size:  2,400 hectares
Potential Output: just under 1 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 335,000 a year

13. Kamuthi Solar Power Station — India

Kamuthi Solar Park – pic Financial Express

Like China, India is smashing it out of the park when it comes to solar and is currently the 5th largest producer of solar in the world.
This farm is in the Tamil Nadu state in the southern part of India and covers 10 kilometres squared.
Kamuthi is another controversial site as it uses around 200,000 litres of water a year to keep its panels clear – this is sourced from borewells nearby and nobody asked the respective district authority.

Size:  2.500 (10kM2) acres
Potential Output: 0.65 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 335,000 a year

14. Gujarat Solar Park – India

Gujarat solar farm was one of the fastest developed farms in India, taking just 2 years to complete. As one of the first utility sized solar parks in the country it established India as a renewable pioneer.

Plonked in 5000 acres of desert wasteland where the panels are treated to 330 days of sunlight per year! 
The Gujarat Solar Park produces 600 MW of electricity to go hand in hand with the state’s fantastic rooftop solar capacity of 1.27 GW!
Size: 5000 acres (20.2 km2)
Potential Output: 0.60 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 150,000 a year

15. Francisco Pizarro — Spain

At last, one in Europe!
At an estimated cost of £265, the Francisco Pizarro solar park has been constructed by Spanish electric utility company Iberdrola and is located in Spain’s eastern Cáceres region.
With 1.59 million solar panels spread over 10 kilometre square it is, by far, Europe’s most ambitious solar project to date.
In a move that is being replicated all over the world, German pharmaceutical company Bayer signed a 10-year power purchase agreement to take 100% of the electricity generated to power it’s nine sites – three manufacturing plants, five research and development (R&D) centres, and the central facilities on the Iberian Peninsula.
Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess of the Atabillos was a Spanish conquistador, in case you wanted to know.
Size:  2.500 (10kM2) acres
Potential Output: 0.59 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 150,000 a year

16. Solar Star – US

The USA is second in the world to China for producing solar energy, so it’s quite surprising to find their first energy this far down the list.
However, the US concentrates on more local farms to feed straight into places that need them, rather than create farms in remote areas.
Solar Star is in California, near Rosamond to be exact, so real estate prices are at premium.
Good job this is one of the few solar farms that use the much more efficient, and therefore more costly, monocrystalline PV panels.
This means a higher output for a smaller area – which is essential when you take into account those real estate prices.
Size: 3212.37 acres (13 km2)
Potential Output: 0.58 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 150,000 a year

17. Desert Sunlight Solar Farm – California – US

Pic by U.S. Department of the Interior

Cali-forn-eye-aye may not be nicknamed The Sunshine State like Florida, but it seems to be leading the charge when it comes to solar in the US.
Having a much more progressive style of government has meant the west coast have invested a great deal in renewable energy – with the $1.46 billion in loans being partially guaranteed by United States Department of Energy.

 Bono would be proud that this facility is in the creosote bush-dominated desert right next to the Joshua Tree National Park.
The park was started in 2011, completed in 2015 and had a battery storage facility added in 2022.

Size: 3,900 acres (15.8 km2)
Potential Output: 0.55 GW
Tons of CO2e saved: 350,000 a year

Shotwick Solar Park – UK

Shotwick – Pic David Mendez Moyano

Now, this is nowhere near in the top 17 in the world, but it is the biggest in the UK, so we feel it deserves a special mention.
Shotwick Solar Park is in Deeside, Flintshire which sits just over the English border in north Wales.
It’s called a ‘private wire connection’ as it is used to feed, exclusively, into one company’s energy.
Shotwick feeds UPM paper manufacturing plant, a 25 hour, 7 days a week operation that produces 100% recycled paper.
Private connections are a great way for companies to invest in solar and grow the UK’s renewable offer.
Size: 250 acres (1.2 km2)
Potential Output: 72.2 MW
Tons of CO2e saved: 22,500 a year

The Future of Solar Globally.

We already know that China is leading the world in solar energy, we can see that by how many of their solar parks appear in this top 17.
China actually generates 39% of the world’s solar energy.
But China is not alone in pushing the boundaries of solar power generation.

The Future of Solar in the UK

Solar is battling through in the UK, but it’s not been an easy ride.
The fact we are a small island means we have a deficit of space to construct solar farms, and the place we can start to develop them tends to be in idyllic, rural areas.
This is why the UK has the highest number of planning permission refusals for solar farms in nearly a decade.
We are certainly going to have to find a balance somewhere though – ground mounted solar accounts for just 0.1% of UK land, when you consider we dedicate 70% of our land to livestock farming, it seems a very small amount.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, the UK does have some projects in the pipeline to give us more solar energy.
Cleve Hill Solar has set plans in motion to construct a solar farm in Kent that will rival Shotwick Park in terms of size – with about 800,000 panels producing up to 200 MW.
Also on the horizon is Longfield Solar Farm, Essex, proposed by EDF Renewables it will generate 400 MW of power but, unfortunately, this one is still fighting its way through the red tape.

Solar Future – Africa

Africa is a vast continent with 54 different countries in it – so there is huge potential for solar energy generation.
Unfortunately, Africa is also the poorest continent, so investment is the main barrier to any future growth.
China is already investing heavy in Africa’s emerging energy sector to the tune of £30 billion, which is a lot of money, while the international energy Agency say the continent needs closer to £1.6 trillion.
Fingers crossed.

Solar Future – Asia

As we already know, China and India have invested hugely in solar energy generation, creating the biggest solar farms we’ve ever seen.
But, what about the rest of Asia?
Well, Japan is investing heavily to reach its 150 GW goal, South Korea wants to generate 20% of its energy from renewables by 2030, the Philippines are aiming for 30 GW, and Indonesia a modest, comparatively, 5 GW.
All in all, Asia is set to be producing 1.4 TW of solar electricity in the next eight years.

Solar Future – The Americas

The USA are definitely leading the way in Solar on that side of the pond – in fact, the US is the second largest provider of solar energy in the world.
Both the government and private companies are investing heavily in solar farms and parks, currently generating 75 GW of energy – but there are also plans to develop up to 112 GW of utility-scale solar projects.

South America, a much bigger area containing 12 different countries, offers just 29.9 GW of solar power. 
Again, this is mostly an investment problem as there is plenty of land such as the Atacama Desert in Chilli that is said to offer a massive 6.84 kWh per m2 per day.
In Canada, Solar power is a long way behind most other electricity generation, but we can forgive them because they get 60% of their power from hydro!

 That said, Solar energy increased to 25.9% in 2022, to nearly 4 GW – mostly thanks to a massive investment in Alberta.

Solar Future – Australia

We all think of Australia as one, massive, sunny country full of strange animals and surfers, so we probably think it should be teaming with solar energy.
And, it is doing pretty well at generating energy renewably.
They currently produce around 11.1 GW and are hoping to up that to between 22 GW and 50 GW by 2040.
New Zealand has yet to build anything on a utility scale, but they have announced plans for a 400 MW solar farm from Todd Generation, and a 147 MW solar farm from UK-based Harmony Energy.

Solar Future – Europe

We have already spoke about the UK but what is happening in the rest of Europe.
Germany is leading the pack in Europe at the moment, with 66,552 MW per year, and second place Italy way behind with 25,077.
There is no slowing down in Europe with all countries racing towards their Net Zero targets.

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