What Is The Biggest Solar Project In The Us?

What is the biggest solar project in the US?

Solar energy has been growing in importance in recent years as countries and companies look for cleaner and renewable sources of power. The United States has become one of the leading markets for solar energy projects. This has led to massive solar farms being developed across the American Southwest, where sunlight is abundant. This article will examine some of the largest solar projects in the US, including the Solar Star project, Topaz Solar Farm, and Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. We’ll look at key statistics, companies involved, and the impact these mammoth projects are having. Understanding the growth of utility-scale solar in the US provides insight into the future of renewable energy and efforts to combat climate change. With solar energy on the rise, the projects detailed here likely represent just the beginning.

The Solar Star Projects

The Solar Star projects in California are currently the largest completed utility-scale solar projects in the United States with a total capacity of 579 MWAC (megawatts alternating current). They are located in the Antelope Valley of northern Los Angeles County and southern Kern County, California. The projects cover a total area of about 3,230 acres across two sites – Solar Star California XLIV LLC and Solar Star California XLV LLC (1).

The two projects that make up Solar Star are owned and operated by BHE Renewables, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Construction on the projects began in 2013 and was completed in March 2015. The Solar Star projects utilize 1.7 million solar panels made by SunPower and cost approximately $2.5 billion to build. At peak production, they can generate enough electricity to power approximately 255,000 homes (2).

The Solar Star California XLIV site has a capacity of 265.4 MWAC and is located north of Rosamond, CA. The Solar Star California XLV site has a capacity of 314 MWAC and is located in Kern County west of California City (1). Combined, the two facilities generate over 1.5 million MWh of solar power annually (3).

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Star

(2) https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/projects/solar-star-projects-california/

(3) https://www.power-technology.com/marketdata/power-plant-profile-midamerican-solar-star-pv-park-us/

Topaz Solar Farm

The Topaz Solar Farm is currently the largest solar farm in the United States in terms of area covered. Located in San Luis Obispo County, California, near the Carrizo Plain, the Topaz solar project covers a massive 9.5 square miles area. This makes it the first solar farm larger than 10 square miles in the world.

The solar farm has an installed capacity of 550 megawatts (MW), making it one of the largest operational solar plants in the world. It utilizes thin-film PV panels manufactured by First Solar. The project features over 9 million solar panels mounted on steel supports across Midway Valley.

Topaz Solar Farm is owned by a consortium of companies including MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company and NRG Energy. The construction was done in phases starting from 2011 through 2014 with an estimated total project cost of $2.5 billion. The solar farm generates enough clean electricity to power approximately 160,000 average Californian homes.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, located in the Mojave Desert in California, is one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world. Ivanpah was one of the earliest large-scale solar thermal projects developed in the United States.

The facility covers around 6 square miles of land near the California-Nevada border and has a generation capacity of 392 MW [1]. Ivanpah uses concentrated solar power technology, with over 300,000 mirrors that focus sunlight onto boilers mounted on top of three 459-foot towers, heating water to create steam that drives turbines for electricity generation [2].

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility first went into commercial operation in 2013. The $2.2 billion project was developed by BrightSource Energy and received loan guarantees through the Department of Energy as well as major investments from NRG Energy and Google [3].

Solar Energy Zones

The Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) initiative was launched in 2012 by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of the Western Solar Plan. The goal was to prioritize utility-scale solar development on public lands by designating areas that were well-suited for solar projects due to their solar energy resource potential, access to transmission, and environmental characteristics.

Through this initiative, the BLM identified 17 SEZs spanning about 285,000 acres in six southwestern U.S. states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. These designated areas provide access to road, transmission infrastructure and public lands specifically for solar energy development (BLM, 2022).

Some of the major solar projects being developed in SEZs include the 50 MW Silver State South project in Nevada, the 250 MW Arica solar farm in California, and the 80 MW San Luis Solar project in Colorado. The BLM has stated that developing projects in SEZs can help streamline the environmental review and permitting process by establishing zones suitable for development ahead of time (BLM, 2022).


[1] Bureau of Land Management. (2022, January 12). Solar Energy Zones. Retrieved from https://blmsolar.anl.gov/solar-peis/sez/

[2] Bureau of Land Management. (n.d.). Solar Energy Zones. Retrieved from https://blmsolar.anl.gov/competitive/other-procedures/sez/

Largest Solar Projects Under Construction

There are several massive solar projects currently under construction in the United States that will significantly expand solar energy production once completed. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Major Solar Projects List, some of the largest include:

The Sawtooth Solar Project in Texas broke ground in 2022 and will have a capacity of 735 MW when finished. It is being developed by Ökram and is expected to be operational by 2023.

The Smoky Valley Solar Project in Kansas started construction in 2022 as well. It will have a capacity of 600 MW when completed. NextEra Energy Resources is developing this project which should be online by 2023.

In New Mexico, construction started on the 560 MW Ditat Deus Solar Project in 2022. It is being developed by 8minute Solar Energy and will sell power to Public Service Company of New Mexico when it comes online in 2023.

The 495 MW Travers Solar project in Texas will be one of the largest in the ERCOT region when it is finished in 2023. It is being developed by Ørsted.

These massive projects showcase the continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation capacity happening across the United States.

Growth Trends

The solar industry has experienced massive growth in the United States over the past decade. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar has grown at an average annual rate of 24% since 2010, with over 129 GW of total installed capacity as of Q2 2022 (Solar Industry Research Data | SEIA). Much of this growth has been in large-scale solar projects.

Utility-scale solar capacity in the U.S. is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast 19 GW of new utility-scale solar installations in 2023 and 27 GW in 2024, up from previous estimates of 15 GW and 21 GW respectively (US utility-scale solar outlook improves on easing supply …). This increased projection is due to an easing of solar panel supply chain issues. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) also predicts strong continued growth, with utility-scale solar capacity doubling from 2021 to 2023.

In addition to growing capacity, the costs of utility-scale solar have dropped dramatically, making it increasingly cost competitive with fossil fuels. According to Lazard’s 2021 Levelized Cost of Energy analysis, the cost of utility-scale solar declined by 90% from 2009 to 2021. This downward trend in costs is enabling more large solar projects to be economically viable.


The rapid growth of utility-scale solar projects in the U.S. faces several key challenges. One major barrier is transmission infrastructure constraints. As noted in this article, large generator interconnection queues and lack of new transmission lines are limiting the expansion of projects in optimal solar resource zones.

Land use issues also pose a hurdle, as large solar farms require substantial contiguous land areas. Permits and approvals for projects on federal and tribal lands can be difficult to obtain.

At the state level, policies and regulations vary widely, leading to uncertainty for developers. For example, states have different approaches to net metering and interconnection standards. Navigating diverse regulatory environments across multiple states adds complexities.

Additionally, while costs continue to decline, large-scale solar projects still require significant capital investments. Access to financing and incentives can be challenging, especially for smaller developers.

Overall, to enable further growth in utility-scale solar, stakeholders must collaborate to upgrade transmission networks, streamline permitting processes, align policies, and ensure project economics work for all parties.

Future Outlook

The future possibilities for even larger solar projects in optimal US regions look promising. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), utility-scale solar power is one of the fastest ways to reduce carbon emissions and transition to clean energy in the US.[1] Areas like the Southwest have excellent solar resources and large amounts of available land that can accommodate gigawatt-scale projects. The Solar Energy Zones initiative has identified many prime sites for future development in states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.[2]

Industry analysts predict strong growth for utility-scale solar, with annual installations reaching over 20 GW by 2025. Lower costs for solar panels and energy storage will enable larger and more cost-effective projects. Emerging technologies like bifacial panels, single-axis tracking and advanced inverters can further increase energy yields. Policy support and renewable energy mandates in many states will drive demand. While land use approvals and transmission access remain key challenges, the technical potential for multi-gigawatt solar power plants in the Southwest is enormous.


In summary, the largest solar project currently operating in the United States is the Solar Star complex in California, with a total capacity of 579 MW. Other major projects include the Topaz Solar Farm (550 MW), Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (392 MW), and Desert Sunlight Solar Farm (550 MW).

The growth of utility-scale solar in the US has been rapid, with over 10 GW installed in just the past 5 years. Key factors enabling this growth include falling solar panel prices, federal tax credits, state renewable energy mandates, and the development of new solar financing models. While California currently leads in installed capacity, other sunny states like Nevada, Arizona, and Texas are also developing large projects.

Going forward, the future for large scale solar appears bright, with over 15 GW of projects currently under construction or development across the Southwest. If solar power can continue becoming more cost competitive with conventional sources, the massive renewable energy potential of the American deserts could be further harnessed to help drive the nation’s clean energy transition.

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