National Land Imaging Image Collections

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March 7, 2017 (USA)
March 22, 2017 (Morocco)
March 26, 2017 (China)

Landsat Views Massive Solar Energy Farms

Solar energy is booming worldwide, and these Landsat 8 images show three large solar energy farms. The scale of the images is the same for size comparison.

The first image shows an area on the California-Nevada border in the United States, and displays two different approaches to solar energy. To the west of Ivanpah Dry Lake (the bright swath down the middle of the image) is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Over 170,000 mirrors, called heliostats, each the size of garage doors, rotate to follow the sun. They reflect sunlight to three 460-foot-tall towers. The sunlight heats water in the towers to make steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity.

The darker shapes to the northeast represent a different solar energy method. This project uses 3.4 million thin-film photovoltaic solar panels that track the sun from east to west each day. No water is needed as the panels generate electricity directly from sunlight.

The second image shows a new solar power plant in Morocco. The first phase of the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex, seen in the southern section in the image, uses curved mirrors to focus the sun's energy to heat synthetic oil inside pipelines. Excess heat is stored in molten salt that continues to generate electricity even after sundown. The northern section is a later phase that will use a central tower as at Ivanpah.

The third image shows the world’s largest solar power plant in China, the world's leading producer of solar power. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park covers 10 square miles and comprises 4 million photovoltaic solar panels. China's solar power sector continues to grow as an even larger solar park is planned for the Ningxia region in northern China.

These images support Landsat's mission of monitoring industrial growth and contributing to studies on how solar projects affect land use.

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