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Originally published January 17 2010

21-Megawatt Solar Power Plant Opens in California

by E. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) California-based solar panel producer First Solar has opened a 21-megawatt power plant in Blythe, making it the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the country. Utilizing thin film solar cells made out of cadmium telluride, the plant will be able to generate power for about 17,000 southern California homes.

A project that took only three months to construct, the Blythe solar plant is already set to be replicated across the state. In order to spur California to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals that were put in place by Governor Schwarzenegger, Southern California Edison, a local power company, has agreed to purchase solar power from First Solar's Blythe plant for 20 years.

The thin cell technology used by First Solar to produce its panels is the most cost effective in the industry. The technology is so reliable and effective that First Solar has been able to sign deals with municipalities around the world to build utility-scale energy plants. Though not as efficient as silicon-based solar panels, the cadmium telluride cells are much more cost effective and seem to hold the most potential for large-scale use.

The company has also increased its megawatt production over 600 percent between 2007 and 2008, representing a positive trend towards increased use of solar power generation at the utility-scale level. The company has been dubbed the "Google" of solar energy production because it has pioneered utility-scale solar energy production and has continued to see steady growth despite economic turmoil.

Plans are already in the works to build several more southern California power stations, one with 250 megawatt capacity and another other with 300. A 48-megawatt plant in Nevada was also recently approved. First Solar has also signed an agreement with a city in China to build a massive 2,000 megawatt facility. Half of it is set to be completed and operating by 2014, generating 1,000 megawatts of clean, solar power to its residents.

As far as California is concerned, the state plans to convert at least 33 percent of its production to renewable energy by 2020. Although solar panels have been around for years, the cost of production was typically very high and efficiency was very low, making them a largely ineffective power source. Companies like First Solar are helping to make renewable energy production more viable through advanced solar technology.

Other renewable energy sources being pursued include wind power and agricultural biomass production.

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