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The Evolution of Solar Power Plant Construction

In 1913, the Egyptians constructed the world’s first solar power plant. More than a century later, solar power plant construction has come a long way, but just how has solar power plant construction progressed?

The World’s First Solar Power Plant

In 1913 Maadi, Egypt, Frank Shuman’s “Sun Shine Power Company” harnessed the power of the sun to irrigate crops. Solar power generated 88 kilowatts of energy which powered a 60-horsepower steam engine and pumped 60,000 gallons of water per hour onto the Maadi farmland.

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This groundbreaking solar power plant was comprised of five rows of parabolic mirrors and was more efficient than coal-based power plants of the time.

Today’s Solar Power Plant

In 2022, Europe saw the construction of the Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm in Cáceres, Spain. Commissioned by the Iberdrola group, the Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm can generate 590 MW of energy.

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This huge solar plant has 1.5 million solar panels, which harvest enough energy to power more than 334,000 households.

Comparing Solar Power Plants Of 1913 and 2022

Development

Egypt’s 1913 solar power plant was built when sustainability and good environmental practices were not of concern. Despite this lack of environmental focus, Frank Shuman and his Sun Shine Power Company did begin the foray into clean solar power.

The Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm was built with sustainability in mind and using positive environmental practices. In particular, they took measures to protect steppe birds breeding grounds and a local architectural dig site discovered during construction.

Technology

Egypt’s 1913 solar power plant used five rows of concave polished steel panels that acted as mirrors stretched across a metal frame to focus sunlight. The 203-foot-long panels moved with the sun and captured the sun’s heat in water-filled tubes. The boiled water generated steam that powered a steam engine which pumped water to irrigate nearby farmlands.

The Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm features 1,494,240 (1.59 million) solar modules spread out over 142 installation blocks. The panels are connected to the ground by 13,724 trackers that maximize solar energy production, and that energy funnels to 313 inverters. That energy is then converted into usable current by the inverters and used to power 334,000 homes in the area.

Energy Production

Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm – Europe’s largest solar power plant of today – generates over 6,700 times the energy generated by the world’s first solar plant in Egypt (88 kilowatts).

Applications

Francisco Pizarro Solar Farm provides clean energy to 334,400 homes annually, with the average home using 886 kW hours per month. The world’s first solar plant pumped 60,000 gallons of water per hour from the Nile river to irrigate nearby crops. The advances in technology between 1913 and 2022 made a stark difference in the ability of solar power plants to provide clean energy.

Conclusion

It is no surprise that the solar power plants of today outperform those that came before them – today, we have better manufacturing efficiency, better technology, and more affordable resources. With continued research, improvements in technology, and decreasing costs, solar power use is only going to become more widespread.

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