From: Yale Environment 360
Published March 23, 2017 08:52 AM

Northern Lights: Large-Scale Solar Power is Spreading Across the U.S.

Once largely confined to the sunny Southwest, utility-scale solar power plants are now being built everywhere from Minnesota to Alabama to Maine. Aided by plunging costs and improving technologies, these facilities are expected to provide a big boost to U.S. solar energy production.

Drive through the frosty stubble of central Minnesota soybean and cornfields this winter and you’d come upon a surprising sight — acres and acres of solar panels glinting under the northern sun. The 1,000-acre North Star Solar farm, which opened in December, is the largest, most northerly solar power plant in the United States, generating up to 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 20,000 homes. Prone to smothering blizzards, subzero temperatures, and scant sunlight for much of the year, this boreal clime seems an unlikely spot for a major utility-scale solar installation. But the North Star facility will soon be joined by a 100-megawatt solar plant in neighboring Wisconsin set to break ground later this year. 

Thanks to sharply falling prices for solar photovoltaic panels, rapid advances in harvesting the sun’s energy, and support from tax breaks, incentives, subsidies, and state renewable energy mandates, a clean energy technology once largely confined to the desert Southwest is now quickly extending its reach. Idaho and Maine recently opened their first multi-megawatt plants. Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, and Nebraska are also making their first forays into utility-scale solar, while Floridaand Georgia are in the process of super-sizing their existing capacity. 

Read more at Yale Environment 360

Image: The North Star Solar farm in Minnesota, which generates enough electricity to power 20,000 homes. (Credit: Swinerton Renewable Energy)

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