A small island in the middle of the Pacific is doing some big things for renewable energy.

By the end of this year, 37 percent of the electricity generated on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai will come from a mix of renewable resources, including solar, hydropower and biomass.

The recent completion of the state’s largest solar array is a big help toward that goal, as well as toward the aggressive statewide goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Located in the small town of Anahola, along the island’s eastern coast, the 12-megawatt, $54 million facility is 60 acres — the size of about 45 football fields — and has 59,000 solar panels.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative says it will replace 1.7 million gallons of imported oil per year and generate 20 percent of Kauai’s daytime energy needs — enough to power 4,000 homes.

During daylight hours, about 20 percent of the Kauai's electricity will come from the Anahola project.
During daylight hours, about 20 percent of the Kauai’s electricity will come from the Anahola project. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative

While this is a big step for the Aloha state — as well as Kauai’s public utility co-op, the only utility in the state not owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries — the Anahola facility pales in comparison to the country’s largest solar power plants.

Take California’s Solar Star projects — the largest photovoltaic power plant on the planet. Completed this past June, this 579-megawatt monster in Antelope Valley, California, has more than 1.7 million solar modules and delivers enough electricity to power approximately 255,000 homes.

Upon its completion, Green Tech Media heralded it as a sign that “the utility-scale solar business is alive and well.”

Indeed, from the behemoths like Solar Star to the community-based efforts like Kauai’s Anahola facility, utility-scale solar is making its mark across the country.

In 2014, the utility photovoltaic sector installed 3,939 megawatts — up 38 percent from 2013, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Below, take a look at the five biggest solar power plants (photovoltaic and concentrated solar thermal) in the U.S.

The Solar Star Projects — Antelope Valley, California

Solar Star is the largest operating solar photovoltaic power plant in the world.

This 579-megawatt facility is the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant and generates enough electricity to power approximately 255,000 homes.

Topaz Solar Farm — San Luis Obispo County, California

Topaz Solar Farm

The 550-megawatt facility, as pictured from space, produces enough electricity to power about 180,000 homes.

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm — Desert Center, California

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm California

Photovoltaic solar cells sit in the sun at the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm during a dedication ceremony for the facility on Feb. 9 in Desert Center, California.

Copper Mountain Solar Complex — Boulder City, Nevada

Copper Mountain Solar Complex Nevada

President Barack Obama smiles while speaking at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in 2012. The Copper Mountain photovoltaic complex collectively generates 458 megawatts, enough energy to power approximately 142,000 homes.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System — Mojave Desert, California

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Nevada

Two of the three units at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System are seen operating in the Mojave Desert in California near Primm, Nevada. The largest solar thermal power-tower system in the world, it uses 347,000 computer-controlled mirrors to focus sunlight onto boilers on top of three 459-foot towers, where water is heated to produce steam to power turbines providing power to more than 140,000 California homes.

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