Staggering suppliers of solar power

Anmar Frangoul, special to CNBC.com
View of the Torresol Energy Gemasolar thermasolar plant in Fuentes de Andalucia near Sevilla, southern Spain.
Cristina Quicler | AFP | Getty Images

As the world's energy needs increase – the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that global energy consumption will rise by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040 – having access to an alternative source of power is more important than ever.

Solar power is one such source, with governments and companies looking to harness the limitless energy of the sun by building vast installations.

Here, we take a look at eight of the most striking.

By Anmar Frangoul, special to CNBC.com

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, California, United States:

he Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is seen in an aerial view in the Mojave Desert in California near Primm, Nevada.
Getty Images

The planet's largest solar power thermal system, Ivanpah, is spread over more than 3,000 acres of Californian desert. It officially opened in February, 2014.

Joint owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy, the clean, renewable energy generated by Ivanpah can deliver power to 140,000 Californian households on average.

Over 300,000 mirrors use the sun's rays to create "high-temperature steam", which is used to generate energy via a turbine.

According to BrightSource Energy, the electricity generated by Ivanpah will reduce CO2 emissions by over 400,000 tons per year.

PS10/PS20 solar power towers, Seville, Spain:

Over 600 solar troughs, which act like giant mirrors, redirect the sun's rays to a central tower which heats water to generate steam to power turbines, at the Abengoa solar-thermal plant near Seville, Spain.
Markel Redondo | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Located on the Solucar Complex in the sun-drenched south of Spain, PS10 and PS20 were the world's first commercial solar power towers, completed in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Occupying 148 and 210 acres of land, the plants have a capacity of 11 and 20 megawatts each.

According to Abengoa Solar, one of the companies behind the plants' development, PS10 produces electricity for 5,500 homes, saving 6,000 tons of CO2. While PS20 – whose tower stands at 541 feet – meets the energy needs of 10,000 homes, saving 12,000 tons of CO2 in the process.

Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant, Seville, Spain:

View of the Torresol Energy Gemasolar thermasolar plant in Fuentes de Andalucia near Sevilla, southern Spain.
Cristina Quicler | AFP | Getty Images

Built by Torresol Energy and located in Andalucía, southern Spain, Gemasolar's solar power tower is 140 meters high.

The facility produces around 110 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, enough to power 25,000 homes and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons.

The plant's "molten-salt heat storage system" enables energy to be produced 24 hours a day, whether the sun is shining or not.

Shams solar power station, Abu Dhabi, UAE:

A general view of the newly opened solar power plant, Shams 1, during its official inauguration at Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi.
Ben Job | Reuters

The United Arab Emirates is one of the planet's largest producers of natural gas and oil, with around 97.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

Despite this abundance of resources, the federation's authorities are investing money in solar infrastructure.

Shams 1, located to the southwest of Abu Dhabi, is a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant with more than 250,000 mirrors and a capacity of 100 megawatts, making it one of the largest CSP plants in the world.

The plant became operational at the beginning of 2013. According to the Shams Power Company, the plant is expected to displace 175,000 tons of CO2 every year, which it says is "equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees or taking approximately 15,000 cars off the road."

Copper Mountain Solar Facility, Nevada, U.S.:

President Barack Obama speaks at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the United States.
Getty Images

One of the largest solar sites in the United States, the Copper Mountain Solar Facility in Nevada, consists of three separate parts: Copper Mountain Solar 1, 2 and 3.

Completed in December 2010, Copper Mountain Solar 1 has a capacity of 58 megawatts and uses almost one million photovoltaic panels -- which generate electricity directly from the sun's rays -- to power roughly 17,000 homes.

Copper Mountain Solar 2 is expected to be completed in 2015, and will generate electricity to power 45,000 homes. While the third site – also scheduled for completion next year – will have enough capacity to supply 80,000 homes.


Godawari Solar Project, Rajasthan, India:

A worker walks between parabolic troughs at the Godawari solar-thermal power plant, operated by Godawari Green Energy Ltd., near Nokh, Rajasthan, India.
Kuni Takahashi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

India has set ambitious targets for solar energy, with the aim of producing 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022.

The country's largest state, Rajasthan is home to one of the country's largest solar power facilities.

Completed in 2013, the Godawari Solar Project is on a 370-acre site and has a capacity of 50 megawatts. The project is expected to offset more than 112,000 tons of CO2.


Solarpark Meuro, Meuro, Germany:

Snow covers solar panels at a solar park in Meuro, northeastern Germany.
Bernd Settnik | AFP | Getty Images

Winner of the 2012 POWER-GEN Solar Project of the Year Award, this 166 megawatts solar park is located on a former lignite mining site in eastern Germany.

It is the largest solar project is Germany - which is the world's biggest solar market, according to Reuters - covering more than 870 acres.

The country aims to generate between 40-45 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Perovo Solar Power Station, Crimea:

Employees inspect solar panels on quad bikes in the Perovo solar park, operated by Activ Solar GmbH, a Vienna-based solar developer, in Simferepol, Ukraine.
Vincent Mundy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Situated in the Crimea, a part of the world currently wracked by instability, Perovo was completed in 2011.

With a capacity of 105 megawatts and more than 440,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest photovoltaic power stations in the world.

According to Activ Solar, which built the facility, Perovo reduces CO2 emissions by 107,069 tons per year.