All of a sudden, solar energy is huge. As many of the world’s major governments and corporations move to transition the global power supply away from fossil fuels, developers are transforming swaths of empty desert, agricultural land, and rural lakefront into vast solar energy farms. The mega-sized projects represent a new class of renewable power capacity that’s finally approaching the scale of coal-, oil-, and natural gas-fired plants.

Solar Scale

New solar projects over 200 megawatts have surged recently

Large-scale solar projects are getting more common every year. In 2019, developers set a record by commissioning at least 35 projects of at least 200 megawatts worldwide, up about 17% from the year prior, according to an analysis of data compiled by BloombergNEF. With about 3,000 solar panels needed for each megawatt of capacity, a 200-megawatt project would be at least as big as 550 American football fields.

The increasing size of solar farms comes as costs fall. At the same time, there’s a growing group of buyers in the market for renewable assets, particularly pension funds and other institutional investors keen to match their long-dated liabilities with the consistent returns of solar farms.