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[ 5 Super-Sized Solar Projects Transforming the Clean Energy Landscape ]

2012 marked a record year for America’s solar industry. Installations surged by 76 percent compared to 2011 — representing an estimated market value of $11.5 billion. From commercial to residential, every sector experienced significant growth, but the clear standout of 2012 was utility-scale solar.

Utility-scale solar projects are designed to generate massive amounts of electricity. Unlike other sectors, the electricity generated by utility-scale projects is sold directly to wholesale utility buyers. In the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight report, GreenTech Media and SEIA found that the utility-scale sector grew by an unprecedented 134 percent last year — with eight of the largest solar projects in America starting operation.

Many of these projects were supported by investments from the Energy Department’s Loan Guarantee Program. These investments — in several of the world’s largest solar generation facilities — help to lower the cost of financing and accelerate the completion of transformative clean energy projects. Here are the utility-scale projects that came online last year as part of the loan program portfolio.

Agua Caliente Phase I-IV

With 287 MW of generation capacity online, Agua Caliente is one of the nation’s largest utility scale photovoltaic solar generation facilities.  Situated on 2,400 acres of land in Yuma County, Arizona.   

In addition to creating about 1,400 local jobs at peak construction, Agua Caliente continues to provide economic opportunities for area businesses — from engineering and design firms, to suppliers and service providers. The project will use approximately 4.89 million thin film solar panels.

Alamosa Solar

In Colorado, the Alamosa Solar project is breaking records as the largest high-concentration solar facility in the world. The solar panels used at the facility are controlled by a tracking system that rotates and tilts the panels throughout the day to capture as much of the sun’s energy as possible. The innovative system is also highly-efficient — using Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight by a multiple of 500 onto multijunction solar cells.

Successfully beginning operation last May, Alamosa produces enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 5,100 homes and avoid the emissions of 34,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. More than 80 percent of the components for the solar facility are manufactured in the United States.

Visit the U.S. Department of Energy website here to check out the rest of the list and view some pretty impressive pictures

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