China: Where the “Solar” Force is Strong

China has more solar energy capacity than any country on the planet. Now, its solar farms are transforming energy for the entire world.


Have you ever seen a panda made out of panels? If you go to Datong County in northern China, you’ll see two of them – yes, you read that correctly. You will see two pandas made of thousands of solar panels.

What are these solar panel pandas and why are they there? They form a 248 acre solar farm. It is not the biggest solar park according to China’s standards, but this 100-megawatt farm sure is impressive.

Largest Solar Plants on Earth

If all of China were to generate electricity at the same time, it would be able to power the entire UK – numerous times over. How? Its solar capacity comes in at 130 gigawatts. You will find numerous colossal in China, one of which has four million solar panels and sits on the Tibetan Plateau. This is better known as the 850 megawatt Longyangxia Dam facility. But this isn’t even the biggest such plant on the planet. That would be in the Tengger Desert in China, where the capacity is more than 1,500 megawatts.

Of course, these solar farms don’t come cheap. They have cost millions to construct. The goal is to help meet China’s targets for clean, green energy. Anyone who has done research into solar panels knows China is the biggest manufacturer in the world when it comes to solar panel technology. As a matter of fact, over 60 percent of the world’s solar panels are constructed in China, as per the International Energy Agency. The demand for solar panels is huge. It is a primary policy goal to clean up the Chinese energy mix. Yet a good portion of China’s electricity comes from coal – two thirds, to be exact.

It is easy to see why the plains of northern China have become a popular spot for solar farms. There is a clear reliability when it comes to the sun and having the space to build is a no-brainer. Moreover, China actually met its 2020 goal for early – as per the IEA, it met its objective three years early.

Solar panels are being used to help grow trees on reclaimed land as the solar panels are used to melt permafrost. Solar panels are being used to do innovative, amazing things.

Solar Issues Being Addressed by China

Of course, there are downsides to building solar farms out in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps you have heard of the “Hu Line” which was drawn by Hu Huanyong, a geographer, back in 1935. The line extends from south central to north east China. The kicker is that more than 90 percent of China’s population lives in the eastern portion. And according to Chinese University of Hong Kong’s , in comparison to this line, China’s distribution of solar and wind energy resources is the opposite.

The problem is a great deal of China’s solar panels are located away from cities and big towns which could benefit from them. The capacity of solar equipment in China was just under 15 percent in the first half of 2018, according to Xu. This translates as being billed as having a relatively high capacity, but only being able to use a small portion of that number. Weather can have an impact on this low capacity factor. Power also gets lost along large transmission lines.

China is certainly working to address this concern. Efforts are being made to create better transmission line technology, as per Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Centre for Energy Policy and Finance’s Jeffrey Ball. DC lines, or high-capacity direct current lines, are innovative concepts being built. Of course, the government also dropped subsidies for large solar projects, so now they cost more to build. According to some, solar installations might drop over 30 percent this year.

Regardless, most agree solar farms are not going anywhere. While installing solar panels on rooftops in large cities might seem like an attractive option, mega solar projects inside and outside of China are not necessarily going to stop popping up. This is a fact, as numerous huge solar farms are under construction at this very moment all across the globe. They will likely compete for the title of “largest solar park in the world.” Many of these solar farms are going to have a link to China. A Chinese firm, for instance, is building part of Egypt’s Benban complex. It has a planned capacity of up to 2,000 megawatts.

If solar panel costs keep dropping, slashed subsidies are not going to matter so much. Energy from the sun has become such a popular, widespread concept – it will be interesting to see how the world continues to use this and how China will continue to play a key role in the world’s energy transformation. Follow solar news to stay in the know!





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here