Transforming China’s West Into A Hub For Solar Energy

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In the wake of the annual meeting of two of China’s highest political bodies, one of the country’s leading politicians and business figures has called for the conversion of its vast interior into a hub for the development of renewable energy

Liu Hanyuan, chairman of Tongwei Co., Ltd. and a member of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that just recently concluded its once-yearly meeting, is pushing for the development of policies to fully exploit the climate resources of western China by making it a centre for solar energy.

“The central western region of our country possesses vast deserts, steppes, and the Gobi. Its solar energy sources are abundant, and [it] can be used for the vigorous development of solar power plants, and the establishment of a new energy hub,” said Liu.

China’s vast interior has long lagged behind the country’s newly affluent coastal provinces in terms of economic and social development. Liu nonetheless points out that the west possesses a number of critical advantages compared to eastern China when it comes to solar energy, including huge expanses of unoccupied space, long daylight hours and strong sunlight.

The main motive cited by Liu for the development of solar power in China is environmental, with the expectation that environmental damage will continue worsen as economic growth proceeds unless an alternative to fossil fuels can be found.

“Following the rapid development of our national economy, energy consumption continue to surge year after year, and fossil fuels are causing increasingly severe damage to the environment,” said Liu Hanyuan. “The emission of large volumes of carbon dioxide and soot presents a huge threat to the environment of our nation…the vigorous development of new energy has already become one of the commanding heights for the development of the global economy in the 21st century.

“China should make the western region’s abundant solar resources the strategic choice for key energy supply, and confirm as soon as possible China’s backbone network for the transmitting power from the west to the east.”

Liu has called for the expansion of the significance of this “backbone” network in China’s 13th Five Year Plan – the key policy document covering the period from 2016 to 2020 which is currently in the process of being drafted by the country’s chief decision-makers.

According to Liu the network would ensure that solar energy generated in the sun-drenched climes of central and western China can be conveyed to the more economically advanced parts of the country in the east and along the coast, serving to support their ongoing development.

Liu believes that as much as 1 TW of solar power could be transmitted along the country’s power grids, serving to support China’s energy consumption over the next one to two decades, and stymie the growth of coal usage.

The latest data from the China Electricity Council (CEC) confirms that the central and western parts of China have already emerged as the leading areas for the development of solar power, with Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang hosting 5.17GW, 4.11 GW and 3.76 GW of capacity respectively, Inner Mongolia more than 2 GW, and Ningxia over 1 GW, out of a national total of 26.52 GW as of the end of December 2014.

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8 thoughts on “Transforming China’s West Into A Hub For Solar Energy

  • installing TW Solar Power is the only way.
    the more installed the more money made.
    a local business boom in Western China
    with a lot of jobs
    no delay, can be done in 5 year plan.
    only hope there is no security issue
    and the cleaning can be handled.

  • It’s a very interesting project. And when the sun sets in Beijing the western parts will still transfer electricity there for another 4 hours or so before the sun sets in the most western parts, making the potential non-storage solar capacity a fair amount higher.

    • A good and important point.

      Different time zones can be employed to offset some of the intermittentcy issues with renewables.

      • Some countries like Canada and Russia could have solar 24/7 in the summer months with 6/7 time zones and the arctic 24 h day light.

    • Now imagine more hubs around the world, connected by negligible-loss long distance HVDC lines in a worldwide grid, and you’ve got energy 24×7 all over the world.
      Include local and residential sources, and you’ve got a world wide internet of solar powered electrons.
      This is the future.

      • HVDC transmission losses are about 3.5% per 1,000 km.

        A transmission line used to carry solar-electricity halfway around the globe to the dark side would be >20,000 km long.

  • I’d be very surprised if it would could be done for anything approaching the cost of a grid powered by a wide range of renewable inputs and storage.

  • Most spots would be better using their night time Wind verses importing PV power from the day light side. I have to wonder if China doesn’t get faster pay back by adding solar along the transmission lines it has already built or planned to support additional wind/hydro. Not saying the above location isn’t useful, but PV can likely grow faster than new transmission, so add where xfer already exists. Also there are lots of flat top buildings in China close to where the people are; so ramp up the DG machine.

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