China’s World Energy-Transforming Solar Farms

For a time now, solar energy has been considered as an energy source due to its vast benefits. One of its advantages is that solar energy is a renewable energy source, the sun itself. This simply means that electricity is made available to us for as long as we have the sun. Although the purchasing is costly, one other benefit is that it reduces our electricity bills.
When talking about solar energy, China is not far behind. In fact, Yvonne Liu of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (market research firm) said that they are the world’s largest solar energy manufacturer and that their market is really big. The government shows a clear intention in making their high ambition a reality. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that more than 60% of the solar panels used all over the world were manufactured in China.
The use of solar energy from a renewable energy source will greatly help the world’s problem on climate change.
A region in China, Datong Country, will show you two big pandas made of solar panels.
(Picture from the internet)
China tops the list when it comes to solar energy capacity with its massive 130 gigawatts. If all of these solar panels generated electricity at once, it would be enough to power the whole of UK.
China boasts of a number of large solar farms like Longyangxia Dam facility which has four (4) million panels with 850 megawatts. Of course, we cannot bypass China’s Tengger Dessert whose capacity that goes beyond over 1,500 megawatts.
The making of these are very costly. It cost millions of dollars to build. Their construction have been moving at an intense pace with all these vast plains the north and north-western China which have been home to huge solar farms. The question then boils down to what it’s worth. IEA notes that China was able to meet its solar energy capacity target for 2020 three years early.
China’s undeniable interest on building solar farms in some politically sensitive regions like in Tibet, an autonomous region that rejects China’s claim on the territory, is said to possibly have been backed up by the interest to cement Chinese authority in the area and to help ethnic Chinese moving there.
In an attempt to make the area more alluring to some Chinese settlers, an extraordinary project uses solar panels to grow trees on the land by heating an underground grid to melt permafrost.
Building these gigantic solar farms in the middle of nowhere, however, holds its own downsides. 94% of the people in China lives in the east and the remaining 6% lives in the west. Many solar panels are located and built far away from China’s large towns and cities that actually need the energy. This makes up for a low percentage of the solar energy capacity used compared to the enormous sources made available to the country.
In the first 6 months of the year 2018, a data from the China Electricity council showed how the capacity factor of the solar panels was only as low as 14.7%. Solar farms on the other hand are being billed as having a capacity of 200 megawatts.
There may have been several factors which affects low capacity factor which includes things beyond their control like weather as it is given that the energy is from the sun. However, one of the obvious reasons is the fact that power is lost upon transmission from the kilometers-long and distant solar farms.
China has tried to tend to the obvious factor by trying to make a technology which makes for a better line transmission. The innovations include high-capacity direct current lines. However, these weren’t built immediately as some expected.
In May, another downside took place when the government dropped its subsidies for large-scale solar projects because the state-run renewable energy fund is in debt for more than $15 billion. This makes it more expensive to build. Installations are expected to be not more than 35 gigawatts compared to last year’s 53 gigawatts of solar capacity. This is a drop of over 30% of the installation.
Energy investors are gearing away from remote solar farms and towards new opportunities that are more appealing to consumers such as direct installation of solar panels on the rooftops of the buildings in the cities.
However, this does not mean we have seen the last of supersized solar farms. China’s influence on these enormous projects are not only limited within their borders but outside China as well. A number of supersized solar farms are currently being constructed around the world. There are many in India. As the completion comes closer, they will be fighting for the title of the new largest solar park in the world. There will be many clear links to China like the Egypt’s Benban Complex, which covers 37 square kilometers and a planned capacity of around 1600-2,000 megawatts, is being built by the help of a Chinese firm.
The makers of the panda-shaped panels in Datong, Panda Green Energy, plan to install more solar farms in China that would look like pandas from above with their “Panda 100 Program”. Building its solar parks in other countries is part of their goals as well. They have envisioned a panda plus a rugby design in Fiji and a panda plus maple leaf design in Canada.
Solar panels are getting cheaper as pointed out by Liu. A few years from now, solar energy will be inexpensive enough for investors to just ignore it.
However, should these large-scale solar parks continue to emerge, manufacturers should plan for an antidote to the future decade’s complication: Solar Panel Waste. The panels last for as long as 30 years or a bit more but after that, they must be broken up. The fact that it contains harmful chemicals such as sulfuric acid makes it hard to be recycled. China is predicted to have solar panel waste around the year 2040 and onwards. Indeed, this is a hurdle that they must overcome if they were to raise a banner for a “green technology”.
With all these current large-scale solar farms, there certainly are many more to come. Like most say, expect the unexpected.