China’s Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant. Will it be the First of Many?
Air pollution in China is becoming worse everyday it seems. Choking clouds of air pollution from vehicles and power plants have caused the Chinese government to announce its ban on the use of coal in Beijing by the year 2020.The world’s top energy consumer, the Asian country is currently in the plans of cutting its dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas.
Recently, the country’s largest solar thermal power plant has begun construction. Set to occupy 2,550 hectares of land in the Gobi Desert, specifically in the city of Golmund, the plant will have the capacity to produce 200 megawatts of solar power. This capacity will be capable of providing electricity to about 1 million households.
Often, when people think about solar panels, they think about residential homes or commercial buildings with solar panels installed on the rooftops. China, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar photovoltaics, actually makes use of large solar panels that are mounted on the ground. Called solar farms, these are typically located in remote areas, organized into large farms, and are sold to utilities.
Solar power is a fast-growing industry in the country, with over 400 photovoltaic companies located across the country. In 2013, China became the world’s largest leading installer of solar photovoltaics. Recently, they have also become the world’s largest market for solar power.
Among the reasons for this rise are due to the government’s new feed-in-tariff program where solar generators are paid a fixed price for energy produced. Another reason is the government’s highly ambitious Five Year Plan, where a set amount of solar installations and solar production are set to be implemented in the next few years. The elimination of 20 gigawatts of coal capacity in the next 5 years is also included in this Plan.
China is only one of several countries all over the world who are currently in the process of replacing their sources of energy from coal and fossil-fuel sources to different modes of clean energy. Currently, the US is home to the world’s largest solar power plant, with the capacity to produce 550 megawatts of energy. The US government has also mandated that 33% of its total energy production by 2020 must be produced from renewable resources.
China’s neighbor, India, is also in the process of reducing their dependence on coal-based power plants. The country’s largest solar power plant has the capacity to produce 130 megawatts of power, and by the year 2022, the country is set to add more solar power plants to add 100 more gigawatts to its current capacity.
Once operational, China’s largest solar power plant will slash coal use by 4.26 million tonnes, drastically reducing harmful carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide to the country’s already suffering atmosphere.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.