Construction Begins On China's Biggest Solar Project

Construction has begun on China’s biggest solar project, which will eventually provide electricity for 1 million households.

Spread over 6300 acres in the Gobi desert in the northwest part of the country (Qinghai province), the concentrating solar towers will store energy for 15 hours, "guaranteeing stable, continual power generation," says Qinghai Solar-Thermal Power Group.

Qinghai Delingha Solar Thermal Power Generation Project is a joint venture between BrightSource Energy (developer of Ivanpah in the US) and Shanghai Electric Group. The first phase, which comes online in 2017, consists of two, 135 MW solar towers, and eventually there will be six.

Because of this project, coal use will drop by 4.3 million tons a year, according to Xinhua news agency.

Ivanpah, in California’s Mohave Desert, is the world’s largest solar tower project at 395 MW. Spread across 3,500 acres, it can be seen from the International Space Station.

Solar: Ivanpah

It’s surprising that China is using solar tower technology. Most large projects now use solar PV because prices are so low, and because Ivanpah has proven to be a magnet for killing birds.

This is the first commercially-owned project in China. First Solar dropped its plan to build a much, much bigger 2 gigawatt project in Inner Mongolia last year, because of the "market environment."

China Minsheng Investment Corp – the country’s largest private investment fund – is planning a $2.4 billion, 2 GW solar plant in the Ningxia region. And that’s just the beginning. It plans to invest $32 billion in 20 GW of projects over the next five years.

It’s a boon for JinkoSolar, which is delivering 1 GW of solar panels over the next year.

China has 33 GW of solar installed (compared to 20 GW in the US) and is shooting for another 18 GW this year. The goal is for renewables and nuclear to provide 20% of energy by 2030. 

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