China is set to begin the construction of what is expected to be the largest concentrated solar thermal power plant. The Delingha plant, which will cover 25km of land in the Gobi desert, is slated to have a 200 MW capacity – enough to supply one million homes with electricity.
Once fully operational, the plant will prevent the burning of 4.26 million tonnes of coal every year, reducing CO2 emissions by 896,000 tonnes.
Solar thermal technology uses heliostats (computer-controlled mirrors) to concentrate solar energy into central towers, where the energy can be stored in the form of molten salt. Solar thermal is therefore capable of delivering a smoother power supply than PV, although it is currently more expensive.
The Delingha plant will feature six separate towers and thousands of heliostats covering an area the size of Bath. The project is a joint venture between US developer BrightSource Energy and Chinese companies Shanghai Electric and China Power Investment Corporation.
The Delingha plant is just one of many ground-breaking renewable projects being undertaken in China, as the country scrambles to reduce its dependence on coal and improve air quality.
Between 2005 and 2014, China increased its solar capacity by 40,000% to 28 GW, and the country is expected to install 17.8 GW of solar PV capacity alone in 2015, accounting for almost 40% of global installations.
The transition away from a fossil-fuel economy shows no sign of slowing down, after China’s largest export market for coal – the US – also announced drastic plans to cut coal consumption in the last week.
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan – which targets a 32% cut in power plant emissions – has been described by detractors as a ‘war on coal’.