Preparations are underway in Canada to build what may become the world's largest solar-power installation.
OptiSolar Farms, a subsidiary of California-based OptiSolar, plans to break ground next year and will begin generating power at the plant by 2010, according to the Toronto Star. The installation is expected to generate 40 megawatts of power -- enough to power 6,000 to 15,000 homes.
“This is certainly the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on,” Peter Carrie, vice president of OptiSolar Farms Canada, tells the Star. “We want to take solar mainstream.”
Carrie won’t reveal the project's cost, but says a typical 10-megawatt solar field costs up to $80 million. The Star estimates the Sarnia project could cost $300 million.
Representatives of OptiSolar Farms Canada, the city of Sarnia, the Ontario Power Authority, and Bluewater Power unveiled the project, which will require a 1.5-square-mile solar panel field in Sarnia, a city of more than 70,000 on Lake Huron.
The world's largest solar park is a 12-megawatt plant in Germany. That country plans to build a 40-megawatt plant of its own, the Star reports.
Such solar projects are becoming more popular, attracting government programs and large companies, such as Wal-Mart, which recently announced plans to install solar panels on 22 of its stores, says Ethan Zindler, a research analyst for New Energy Finance, a renewable-energy information service in Washington, D.C.
“This is happening now because of a combination of high fossil fuel prices, increased desire for energy independence and growing concerns about climate change,” says Zindler. “Also, in this specific case, OptiSolar has been given some generous subsidies.”
Compared to wind power, which fetches 11 cents per kilowatt hour from the Ontario Power Authority, or nuclear energy, which fetches only 6.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the Ontario power authority will pay OptiSolar 42 cents per kilowatt hour for its energy, according to the Star.
It’s part of the Ontario Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program. According to Red Herring magazine, OptiSolar is one of several companies that have benefited from pro-solar government subsidies.
In 2006, for instance, California launched a $2.8 billion initiative to encourage solar energy production in the United States, according to Red Herring.
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