Science & Health

World's Largest Solar Plant Looks Like Someone Playing Tetris From Space

World's Largest Solar Plant Looks Like Someone Playing Tetris From Space

The Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, California, is the largest photovoltaic power station on the planet. In this image, it looks like someone aboard the International Space Station decided to power up a game of Tetris on planet Earth.

Covering 25 square kilometres, the facility is about a third of the size of Manhattan, or the equivalent of 4600 football fields. Construction started in 2011, and the plant was turned on and began to generate electricity in November 2014. The 550-megawatt plant produces enough electricity to power about 180,000 homes. According to plant operator BHE Renewable estimates, that is enough to displace about 407,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year — the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road. NASA explains this particular view of the plant:

From the ground level, the scope of the facility is difficult to comprehend. Visitors to Topaz describe rows of solar panels that seem to stretch endlessly into the horizon. This satellite image, captured on January 2, 2015, by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8, helps put the facility into perspective. Solar arrays appear grey and charcoal. The surrounding farmland and grasslands appear brown and green. The power plant is situated within a plain flanked by the Caliente Range to the west and the Temblor Range to the east. Topaz’s solar modules are mounted together on panels supported by steel columns; the structure holds the modules about 5 feet (1.5m) above the ground. Rows of panels are laid in a way that form large geometric shapes that are defined in part by the presence of access roads, stream beds, and preexisting infrastructure.

And here is the full shot in 4000 x 4000 pixels:

World's Largest Solar Plant Looks Like Someone Playing Tetris From Space

[Jesse Allen/Earth Observatory/NASA]


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