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Time to shine: China showcases mega solar farm size of 5 Manhattans amid mighty clean push

By Ma Danning in Xining (People's Daily Online)    16:16, July 02, 2018

   Aerial video of Gonghe Solar Park, in Gonghe county, Hainan prefecture, northwest China's Qinghai.

Standing on a 30-meter-tall glass tower with a 360-degree view, endless blue solar panels above wild grass seem to touch high hills that stretch into distance and blend with the gentle skyline. Elevated at different heights but all facing south, the panels glitter under the sun like soft ocean waves.

This is Gonghe Solar Park, spread over 298 square kilometers—a size equal to five Manhattans or all of Uk's second largest city Birmingham. A total of 42 Chinese solar companies have built a whopping 3,450MW installed capacity, capable of powering some 2.5 million households across five provincial areas in northwest China, namely Qinghai, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces and Xinjiang and Ningxia autonomous regions, covering a third of Chinese territory.

The massive solar park includes an international research base for photovoltaic modules, hailed as the “encyclopedia of solar industry”, according to Li Ju, who is in charge of maintenance operations at the Power Generation Department of Huanghe Hydropower Development Co. Ltd., the world’s largest solar energy developer also one of the solar giants at the park.

The base gathers samples of myriad solar modules by mainstream makers from around the globe. Daily operations, weather conditions and other aspects are collected and analyzed by the most authoritative German institute Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, which ranks the efficiency of each module.

“The test results will guide the application and marketing of our solar equipment, improve efficiency while greatly lowering the cost of energy generation. This benefits China and even the world amid the push for solar innovation,” Li said.

 

 Research base housing 26 types of components, 21 types of inverters, 17 types of brackets, 4 types of energy storage battery, 15 new equipment types and 30 new materials, representing 30 system designs. Photo provided. 

 

For years, China has been at the forefront of global energy transition. A 2017 report by the International Energy Agency showed that China has a third of the world’s wind power, a fourth of the world’s solar capacity, six of the top 10 solar-panel manufacturers, and four of the top 10 wind-turbine makers.

Qinghai, as one of China’s six clean energy pilot provincial regions, provides world leaders with hope for a greater clean energy revolution.

As the origin of three of China’s seven biggest watercourses: Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Lancang River, the province is rich in hydropower resources. Endowed with ample sunshine on top of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (2,500 to 3,200 hours a year), the province makes up 11% of China’s solar energy potential. And the vast Gobi Desert enables colossal electricity facilities such as wind and solar farms to rise up.

By May, some 86% of the Qinghai’s 26,400MW total installed capacity came from clean energy. From June 20 to 28, Qinghai spent nine days (216 hours) supported by solely renewable energy, a clean energy challenge only atttempted by two countries in world, China and Portugal.

Qinghai also plans to expand its solar and wind capacity to 35 million KW by 2020, and supply 110 billion KWh of clean electricity annually to the central and eastern regions, reducing coal consumption by 50 million tonnes. Xie Xiaoping, chairman of Huanghe Hydropower, told People’s Daily in an exclusive interview on the sideline of Qinghai Investment & Trade Fair on June 26 in Xining, Qinghai, that his firm will play an active role in helping Qinghai reach its target.

 Longyangxia hydro-solar power station. (photo provided)

Specifically, the world’s largest hydro-solar power station, the 850MW Longyangxia Project, is expected to add wind power into its green energy synergy, Li revealed. The project boasts an electric capacity of 1.45 billion kWh per year. Since solar panels can only produce power during the day and are affected by such inconsistencies as clouds,  hydropower storage can be used at night and supplemented with solar power during the days as a guarantee for stability.

“The irreversible momentum of clean energy is sweeping the world. Chinese companies like us will hold onto the honorary mission as clean energy tech innovators and providers to ensure a greener shared future,” Xie said. 

Inside a key factory of Huanghe Hydropower, where two automatic assembly lines produced over 6.2 million polysilicon solar panels for the park. Powered by equipment made by China, US, and Germany, only 15 workers are needed on each line.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Ma Danning, Bianji)

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