The world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant has just opened in China

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic plant has come into operation, according to Chinese media. The facility, which covers 13,333 hectares in the northwestern Xinjiang desert and is capable of powering a small country alone, was connected to the grid on Monday.
Located in a desert area of ??Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China, the plant with a capacity of 3.5 gigawatts of photovoltaics is expected to generate around 6.09 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every year. That’s enough to power a country like Cameroon or Laos alone, or meet the entire electricity demand of Vermont or Alaska.

The installation comes amid a surge in renewable energy investment in the country, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently described as “extraordinary”.

“In 2023, China brought into operation as much solar photovoltaic energy as the entire world in 2022,” the agency noted in its Renewables 2023 report in January.
That’s good news for anyone who doesn’t like living in an uninhabitable post-climate apocalypse world: China is also currently by far the largest contributor to carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry. This is largely due to its huge population (per person, the United States is worse for the environment), but it is still enough to surpass the entire rest of the developed world combined.

However, lately there have been signs that China’s carbon emissions may have peaked. Levels fell for the first time in 14 months in March, according to analysis by Carbon Brief, The Economist reports, and the same likely happened in April. While it is still too early to say for sure, experts have long been convinced that the country will at least meet its stated goal of peaking emissions no later than 2030.

“By 2030 […] almost half of China’s electricity generation will come from renewable energy sources,” the IEA predicted. This is largely due to the increasingly accelerated development of wind and solar parks in the country: in fact, even before the deployment of this new mega solar plant, the two largest operational facilities were already located in western China.

It is a popular base for these types of projects. Sparsely populated and with lots of sun and wind in the area, the Xinjiang region has become something of a center for renewable energy production in the country, although it has certainly not lost its reputation for the rich oil and mineral resources it also houses. .

Perhaps, however, it will be the renewable plants that ultimately win out. After all, China has repeatedly resolved to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, a goal that is impossible without heavy investment in renewable energy. If the latest news and figures are to be believed, the country could achieve it.
“This important strategic decision [to achieve net zero] is made based on our sense of responsibility to build a community of shared future for humanity,” President Xi said in 2021, while attending a climate summit hosted by the United States. Joined. “And our own need to ensure sustainable development.”

Dr. Katie Spalding