California’s 579MW Solar Star project has begun partial operation and is now supplying electricity to California’s grid.

Owner MidAmerican Solar and SunPower, which is building the project, announced this week that the first portions of the two projects that together make up Solar Star are around 10% operational, with the first 57MW now on line.

The project, previously dubbed Antelope Valley, was acquired by MidAmerican from SunPower last year for a reported US$2 billion. MidAmerican is part of investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway empire.

Work began on Solar Star last April and it is currently the world’s largest PV project under construction.

It will use SunPower's modular Oasis Power Blocks technology, developed for large-scale PV power plants.

Mike Fehr, MidAmerican Solar's general manager at the Solar Star projects, said: “This announcement is significant for the state of California. It demonstrates that we are fulfilling our promise to the local community and regulators and delivering expected results, based on our construction timeline, to help California meet its mandate to generate 33% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.”

Large-scale PV projects such as Solar Star are now the key driver of growth in global PV demand.

According to analysis this week by market research firm NPD Solarbuzz, large-scale PV development accounted for 26 of the 36GW of global PV demand in 2013, around 72%.

In 2014, this figure is expected to increase to 75%, Solarbuzz said. The USA was the world's third largest large-scale PV market in 2013 after China and Japan.

-To read more about how modular design and construction is being used to cut costs in large-scale PV power plants, read our feature on Solar Business Focus, 'PVs plug-in power plants'

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