3 Major Breakthroughs in Renewable Energy Industry

published Sep 30, 2014
2 min read


With significant rise in the price of fossil fuels and an extended awareness about climate change, comes interesting opportunities to invest in green energy. It is not only companies but also governments that are investing a lot of money in renewable sources of energy, the energy of the future. It is becoming more common that companies from varied industries invest in renewable sources of energy to reduce their operational carbon emissions.

Moreover, the green energy boom has also reached schools all over the world. There are different projects that focus on bringing children closer to renewable sources of energy and even some fundraising platforms that make it possible for schools to afford the installation of solar panel systems. In this line, contrary to the past 50 years, there is now more pressure for governments and companies to engage with climate change and with the environment. This has lead to surprising results and we can see how countries like China and the United States, popular for their high levels of carbon emissions, are now pioneers in large-scale solar projects. Here we will talk about three revolutionary solar energy projects that prove it is possible to displace fossil fuels from being the number one energy source.

World’s Largest Solar Energy Office Building: Sun Dial, CHINA.

China is probably the first country one would associate with high levels of contamination and carbon emissions. However, the green trend is slowly making its space in this highly populated country. An increasing number of businesses are putting an eye on renewables and the rising prices of fossil fuels are intensifying this behaviour. As a consequence, although coal is still the main fuel in China, solar and wind power are slowly growing their popularity.

A clear example of the “green colonization” is Sun Dial, a solar energy office building that has been entitled the world’s largest solar powered building. Sun Dial meets almost 100% of its energy needs with renewable sources and is covered by a large-scale solar array which is 5,000 square meters big. Every detail and material in this building has been carefully designed to be as energy efficient as possible and, apart from the large solar array, there are solar thermal installations. The whole building, which is as big as 75,000 square meters, has a white exterior that symbolizes clean energy. It is home to a wide range of facilities, among which there is a sustainable hotel.

World’s Largest Solar Photovoltaic Plant: Agua Caliente, USA.

Even though environmental commitment is not a shared feeling amongst all Americans and despite the country is still popular for being one of the main contributors to climate change, there is evidence of an increasing interest in renewable energy. One clear example is Agua Caliente, a solar project located in Arizona that has been given the title of world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant connected to the electricity grid.

The project’s design, operation and maintenance has been attributed to First Solar and is owned by NGR Energy and MidAmerican Solar. The large-scale solar plant is expected to have 290MW (AC) generation capacity, that will be enough to power around 100,000 average sized homes. This can be translated into taking 40,000 cars off the road. Moreover, like other projects of similar magnitude, there are local benefits attached to it. For example, more than 400 workers will be employed daily during the 4-year construction period.

World’s Largest Solar Thermal Farm: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

Another example that proves how green energy is slowly getting bigger in the United States is the Ivanpah Solar Project in the California Mojave Desert. Alike Agua Caliente, NRG Energy also has its share of the ownership, together with Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy. Moreover, a $1.6 billion loan was guaranteed by the United States Department of Energy. The project, launched in February 2014, is valued $2.2 billion and has the capacity to generate almost 400MW, enough to power something like 140,000 homes. Plus, more than 2,100 jobs will be created with this project.

Solar thermal systems differ from solar photovoltaics in the sense that the former generates heat by using the energy of the sun to heat water, and the latter directly converts sunlight into electricity by means of the solar panels. However, both terms are generally confused and most people have solar panels as synonym of solar energy.


The Ivanpah Solar project is the solar thermal kind, which means it produces electricity by creating high-temperature steam to turn a conventional turbine. Contrary to other sources of energy, instead of burning fossil fuels to create the steam, Ivanpah uses the clean and infinite sun as fuel. A group of thousands software-controlled mirrors track the sun and reflect the sunlight to boilers that are mounted on top of three tall towers. When the concentrated sunlight strikes the boiler’s pipes, it heats the water to create superheated steam. This high-temperature steam is then directed from the boiler to a standard turbine that will lead to electricity generation. Finally, transmission lines direct the resulting power to homes and other buildings.

These three are some of the examples that evidence a bright future for renewable sources of energy. As demand for such technologies increases, more investors will be attracted to this industry and therefore more money will be devoted to research and technology. This will lead to major improvements in the efficiency and cost of renewable sources of energy and hopefully in the next ten years green energy solutions will be affordable and cost-effective for a wider audience, from large businesses to local communities.