World’s largest photovoltaic plant being built in Arizona desert

As state and local governments implement various types of renewable energy sources in their communities, one project stands out among them all for its size and potential impact on the local energy market.

The Agua Caliente solar photovoltaic power plant, currently being built in Yuma County, Arizona, will be the largest facility of its kind once completed. A part-public, part-private initiative, it benefits from the U.S. Department of Energy's green power stimulus programs.

It will be capable of producing an enormous amount of energy. Right now, the plant has a maximum capacity of 250 megawatts (MW) that it can deliver to the local power grid. Once the final generators are brought online, however, the project is estimated to produce up to 290 MW at a time. First Solar Inc., the company responsible for its construction and eventual operation, expects the final components to be in place sometime in 2014.

In terms of low-impact electricity production, the company estimates that roughly 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be offset over the course of 25 years once the plant is fully operational. Roughly 450 employees will run the facility, providing a small boost to the area's employment levels.

"The Agua Caliente project exemplifies how utility-grade solar PV power can be rapidly deployed in a phased approach and seamlessly integrated into the electrical grid," Jim Tyler, a technology development executive for First Solar, said in a press release. "We are extremely proud to set a new benchmark for the industry with Agua Caliente, which incorporates the knowledge gained over years of experience designing, building and operating utility-scale solar projects for leading utilities and energy providers."

Once completed, this initiative may pave the way for similar large-scale projects in other parts of the country. At the very least, it will provide much-needed renewable energy for local residents.

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