Innovative Large-Scale Solar Powered Projects Around the World

Jess Hutton | March 23, 2016 | Industry Knowledge

The solar industry is booming and not just in the residential market.

If you follow us on Twitter, you have probably seen our tweets on the incredible solar powered projects happening around the world. It’s exciting to see how creative, efficient, and widespread solar energy is coming to power our lives. From solar parks and floating solar farms to golf courses and deserts, the sky is literally the limit on how solar panels can produce clean energy. Let’s take a look at some of the most innovative uses of solar panels across the globe.

Solar Farms

Solar farms, also known as solar ranches, are large-scale systems designed to harvest and supply energy for the electricity grid or for multiple people. Solar panels are set up on large plots of undeveloped land or on actual working farms with little shade covering.


Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr

Unlike the more popular residential roof panels, solar farms supply energy at the utility level, meaning they generate enough power to supply hundreds or even thousands of homes or buildings. They can also supply energy to agricultural areas while reducing costs, enabling community growth, and establishing sustainability. Above is a picture of the Long Island Solar Farm in Long Island, New York.

Other examples of solar farms around the world include the Lauingen Energy Park in Bavarian Swabia, Germany, the Serpa Solar Park in Serpa, Portugal, and the Westmill Solar Park in Watchfield England.

Solar Gardens

Solar gardens are set up on a plot of land, but typically on a much smaller scale than solar farms.  If your home is completely shaded by trees, has limited rooftop space, or if you live in a neighborhood that would like to share the benefits of a community solar array, this is a great alternative to individual rooftop solar energy systems.


First built in Colorado to help low-income homes and renters go solar, solar gardens are an affordable way for a community to create clean energy.  For example, the image above shows the Westmill Solar Cooperative, a solar garden with various owners, including a family, a local business, and a school. The electricity generated is sent to the grid and garden owners receive a bill credit, a “virtual net metering” system.

Golf Course Solar Systems

A few years ago, when tax breaks were first offered to property owners who generated their own electricity, golf course owners began to think outside the box. With large plots of land (usually in sunny locations), golf course solar systems were practical, and showed members and guests that clubs were environmentally-responsible.

Golf clubs began to supply their own energy, and enjoyed a nice tax benefit or a grant for their systems. Last year, Santa Ana Golf Club in Bernalillo, New Mexico, completed the installation of a 250-kilowatt solar array. The system is expected to power 95% of the facility including the restaurant and bar, all while eliminating 800,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually. Over the lifetime of this solar energy system, it is expected to save the club over $2 million, in addition to providing much needed shade for parked vehicles. Solar energy systems are also being constructed on abandoned golf courses – a great way to make good use of unused (and sunny) land!

Need an excuse for a golf vacation? Check out these gorgeous golf courses that feature solar-powered systems: Coventry Golf Club, Coventry, UK and Candler Hills Golf Club in Ocala, Florida.

Desert Solar-Powered Systems

Deserts seem like the perfect place to construct solar power systems, with an abundance of sun and land. Of course, there are challenges with such a grand idea including significant investments of time and money, issues with dust, and transmitting electricity, but the potential to generate a large amount of electricity is significant.

J R/Flickr

By putting solar panels even in a small area of Libya, enough electricity could be generated to power North Africa and Europe! Utilizing deserts and open spaces, we have the potential to generate renewable energy for everyone on the planet.

Other desert solar powered plant examples include the Nevada Solar One in Boulder City, Nevada and the Desert Sunlight solar project near Joshua Tree National Park.

Floating Solar Systems

Innovators and engineers have begun exploring the efficiency of solar energy systems on water. Whereas land and desert-based solar systems usually lack water for cooling their components, solar systems constructed “on” water eliminate the problem completely.

Designed to be installed on fresh water surfaces, like ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, 500,000 kWh of energy can be provided just by using one square acre of water in California alone! In addition, floating solar systems are recyclable, resistant to corrosion and the sun’s ultraviolet rays, conserve land space, reduce water evaporation, slow the growth of algae, and do not impact water quality. The Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Heathrow is now home to 23,000 floating solar panels to generate power for local water treatment plants.

Other incredible examples of floating solar systems are the Jamestown floating solar farm in Australia (on a waste water facility) and the Kyrocera floating solar power plant in Japan (on a dam reservoir).

It is exciting to see how far solar power systems have advanced in recent years. Engineers and innovators are finding such clever ways to utilize space to supply our energy needs. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest news and updates on solar energy and solar powered projects worldwide!


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