In 2013, China became the world’s largest solar electricity producer and consumer, surpassing the United States. At the same time, China’s solar power industry grew by 21% year, with sales reaching US$21.8 billion.
With such a huge market, it’s no surprise that corporations, entrepreneurs, and large residential users have gotten in on the game, competing to build the world’s largest solar power plant. To know more about the largest solar power plant in the world, we reached out to Ren Bao, Director of Sustainability at the China Center for Resources and Energy, a non-profit research organization based in Beijing.
The Largest Solar Plant In The World: How Does It Work?
The world’s largest solar power plant is a massive structure that harnesses the power of the sun. The first of its kind in the world, it was built in 2015 and is now running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using 200,000 mirrors to focus sunlight onto a singular point, a tower that generates electricity.
The first of its kind, it is the logical progression of solar power development in China. In 2014, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest market for solar power, with nearly 60% of the world’s total installed solar power capacity. In 2015, China’s overall solar power capacity grew by 21% year, with cumulative installations hitting 126 gigawatts (GW). With that much growth, it is expected that within the next few years, even larger solar power plants will be built in China.
But what makes this plant special?
Where Did The Idea Come From?
When it comes to innovative ideas and concepts, few countries have been as prolific as China. The country not only saw the beginnings of modern science, it was also the birthplace of many practical applications of science, including modern medicine. In addition, China has a history of technological innovation that dates back to the country’s imperial days. This is why it is not surprising that China is now at the forefront of many technological revolutions, including the development of solar power.
In fact, the China’s largest solar power plant is such a significant development because it not only demonstrates the country’s commitment to solar power but it also serves as a testament to the country’s cutting-edge research and development efforts in many sectors, including energy. It is, therefore, not only the largest solar power plant in the world, it is also the symbol of all that is innovative and cutting edge about China and its vast solar power industry.
How Is It Unique?
In addition to being one of the largest solar power plants in the world, the China’s largest solar power plant is also one of a kind. It is the world’s first concentrated solar power plant (CSP), a technology that originated in China and has since been exported around the world. Furthermore, it is also one of the most efficient solar power plants, using less than one-fifth the amount of energy required by the typical tower-based solar plant (TPS). Finally, with a capacity of 180 megawatts (MW), it is one of the most powerful solar plants in the world, able to supply electricity to around 180,000 residential homes.
Compared to other large solar plants, the uniqueness of the China’s largest solar power plant does not end there. For one thing, it is the first of its kind to be built on such a large scale. Furthermore, it is equipped with an innovative solar thermal energy storage system that allows it to produce electricity 24/7. Finally, it is the only CSP to have an incorporated micro-hydroelectric power station, using water from the Yangtze River, one of the world’s most important freshwater sources. In addition to serving as a source of clean energy, the micro-hydroelectric power station also helps to regulate the temperature of the solar thermal storage system, ensuring that the electricity can be generated at the ideal temperature required for optimum efficiency.
What’s Next For The Technology?
The China Center for Resources and Energy (CCRE) is responsible for promoting energy research and innovation in China, including the development of new energy technologies and the establishment of new energy resource centers. In this capacity, the organization plays a key role in the development of solar power technology, advising national and provincial governments and industry stakeholders.
In the future, CCRE sees the development of solar power technology in two distinct phases. In the first phase, which began in 2015, smaller solar power plants that are more efficient will be developed. These plants will use more modern and efficient components, incorporating the latest research and development advances. In the second phase, which is now in its early stages, larger and more powerful solar power plants will be built. These plants will use traditional components, but they will incorporate the latest research and development advances. The organization is, therefore, currently involved in the first stage of this two-stage process, developing smaller and more efficient solar power plants, with a goal of providing renewable energy sources to more Chinese homes and businesses.