China flicks the switch on world’s largest floating solar power plant

BE2C2 Report by Irshad Salim — China has launched a huge floating solar power plant –the world’s largest, further underlining its role as global leader in renewable energy –from a coal-guzzling, smog-blanketed polluter.

The facility is located in the city of Huainan, in China’s eastern Anhui province. It has a capacity of generating 40 megawatts (MW) at one time, enough to power 15,000 homes or a small town. And the pioneering project (just as Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement) is built on a man-made reservoir, which has been converted from an abandoned coal mine near the city.

Floating solar arrays have been in use for a little over a decade. They have several advantages; they don’t take up any valuable space on land, and the cooling effect of the water on which the panels float makes them more efficient. They can also help to mitigate the evaporation of water for drinking or irrigation by intercepting sunlight before it hits a reservoir’s surface.

But while the technology is well-established, the Huainan plant represents a giant step forward in scale for green energy projects. Previously, the largest floating solar array was a 6.3MW plant located in the UK. That will be overshadowed by a plant in Japan, due to come online next year, that will produce 13.7MW – still a long way behind China’s new facility.

As well as accelerating its investment in renewables, China has also been putting the brakes on its fossil fuel consumption. In January this year, the country’s energy regulator brought a stop to more than 100 coal-fired power plants under construction across the country, with a combined output of 100 gigawatts (GW).

Today, China invests more each year in wind, hydro and solar power than any other country on earth and leads the way in renewable research and development also.

According to Business Insider, the country recently announced it would invest $361 billion in renewable power by 2020, and by 2022 could produce 320 gigawatts of wind and solar power and 340 gigawatts of hydropower. Currently renewables are responsible for 11 percent of China’s energy and may reach 20 percent by 2030.

While the floating solar plant is the largest in the world, it pales in comparison to some of China’s non-floating solar projects. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Even that will soon be eclipsed by a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.

China is also completing a 1GW solar power park in Pakistan’s Punjab province–likely to be privatized with strategic sale of 100MW through initial public offering (IPO).

Due to the recent fall in regional and global tariffs, Pakistan is set to adopt power auctions which could further push down solar energy prices in the country.

BE2C2 is a business unit of Irshad Salim Associates  which produces reports, infographics, analytics and analyses based on data and information from sources readily available on the web and in the public domain.

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