Qinghai leads in photovoltaic solar power

Photovoltaic solar energy stations in China’s Qinghai province now have an installed generating capacity of over 1,000 megawatts, according to newly released figures that show the consolidation of the area as the country’s leading solar power base.

Last year alone, the province, home to the Gobi desert and many clusters of sunlight-utilizing power stations, approved 42 photovoltaic power projects. Forty of them have ben completed, posting a combined capacity of 953 megawatts, Yu Xiaoming, chief of the provincial energy bureau, told Xinhua on Friday.

"Along with the two projects completed in 2010, the installed capacity has reached 1,003 megawatts," said Yu.

These power stations will generate about 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year, he said.

"Compared with coal-fired power stations, the solar photovoltaic projects saves 500,000 tons of standard coal a year, cutting emissions of dust, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide by 6,900 tons, 5,700 tons and 1.54 million tons respectively," explained the energy chief.

Qinghai Province has abundant solar energy resources, with an annual radiation averaging 5,800 to 7,400 megajoules per square meter. In the province’s Qaidam basin, the annual solar radiation tops 6,800 megajoules per square meter.

The basin, the location for 42 of the 44 existing projects, is widely recognized as an ideal place to harness solar energy, as it has 100,000 square km of wasteland ideal for photovoltaic power generation industries.

The far western city of Golmud alone has 23 solar photovoltaic power generating companies that have built photovoltaic power stations with a gross installed capacity of 570 megawatts, said Liu Xinping, the city’s energy chief.

The figure will top 1,000 megawatts by the end of this year, with another 500 megawatts to be installed in the coming months, he said.

Qinghai’s efforts to build a massive photovoltaic power generation base began in May 2009, when a company run by the State Grid Corp, China’s largest power grid operator, signed a deal with the Golmud city government on a 200-megawatt photovoltaic power station.

"In the coming decade, Qinghai Province plans to expand its photovoltaic power generation capacity to 4,000 megawatts," said Yu. "By then, solar energy will make up 15 percent of Qinghai’s total energy consumption."

Li Hongliang, deputy manager of a Qinghai new energy company, said solar energy promises stable economic returns for investors and fosters related service industries including those repairing and cleaning solar cells.