China is not necessarily known for having the cleanest air in the world. But a recent string of large-scale clean energy projects is signaling a real commitment to fighting pollution by reducing reliance on coal.
Last year, Global Citizen reported on China’s construction of the largest floating solar farm in the world. This year, the country is on track to break that record with an even larger one.
The new floating solar plant, slated for construction in the region of Anhui and operated by China Three Gorges Corp., will produce enough energy to power nearly 100,000 homes, or six times more energy than the current largest plant can produce, according to a report that appeared in Business Insider. It is expected to come online in May of this year.
The Huainan solar farm, which came online last year, is operated by Sungrow Power Supply Company, and provides enough energy to power 15,000 households. It was officially connected to China’s power grid in May of 2017, making it, for now, the largest floating power plant in the world. Its placement on the lake means that the plant takes up no usable land, and cuts operating costs by making use of the natural cooling power of the water.
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Aside from its utilitarian benefits, the symbolism of building a massive solar energy farm over the ruins of a coal mine is not to be overlooked.
The plant is a physical testament to the efforts of the Chinese government to limit coal consumption, which is largely responsible for smog pollution so toxic it is believed to be responsible for one-third of all premature deaths across the country.
Since 2013, the country has slashed their use of coal by half, an impressive feat considering that, as recently as 2012, China used just about as much coal as every other country in the world combined. Despite this accomplishment, 2017 still brought several moments of high-intensity smog warnings around major cities.
China seems willing to continue down the path of renewable energy, even if the gains might be more long-term than short.
Early in 2017 the country announced plans to invest a whopping $361 billion on transitioning from reliance on coal to clean energy. Most of that money was allocated towards increasing solar energy capacity, with plans to build over 1,000 major solar plants in order to quintuple energy production.
Funds will also go towards the development of hydro, wind, and geothermal energy infrastructure development.
China is on pace to spend about $72 billion per year on clean energy development, meaning more projects like these floating solar farms are likely to follow.