While the US continues to shirk its carbon-cutting responsibilities, China continues to showcase to the world why it is set to become the de facto leader on climate change advocacy. Its coal use is finally flatlining, it’s investing heavily in both nuclear and wind power, and now it’s now home to the world’s largest floating solar farm.
Sungrow Power Supply announced this month that they have finished construction on a 40-megawatt solar power plant, which is sitting on a somewhat appropriate setting. The area was once a coal-mining town, but it’s since been flooded.
Found offshore from Huainan, it has been successfully connected to the grid. Thanks to its placement offshore, it doesn’t take up any “space”, and it uses less energy than most solar farms as the seawater acts as a natural coolant.
The construction of the plant is part of China’s efforts to become what some are calling a “green superpower”. Solar power is rapidly becoming a key component of this, with similarly-sized projects cropping up all over China.
A venture between privately-owned and state-owned Chinese companies is even converting much of Ukraine’s Chernobyl into a solar power plant. At full capacity, this will provide 2 gigawatts of power, enough to electrify 750,000 modern homes. In comparison, the floating solar park will power around 15,000 homes – far smaller, but nothing to be sniffed at.
China is by far the world’s most prolific greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, but unlike the current US government, its leaders appear to have finally seen the writing on the wall after decades of neglect and inaction.
Thanks to market forces turning against fossil fuels, the increasing affordability, and effectiveness of renewable energy, the need to stamp out coal-driven smog outbreaks and the chance to be seen as a benevolent presence on the world stage, China is now moving full steam ahead towards a low-carbon future.
Solar power is by far one of the best ways to achieve this. A recent analysis of the world’s efforts to curb global warming has found that solar farms are the 8th best way to cut GHGs. Solar power is currently responsible for 0.4 percent of the world’s electricity production, but if this grew to 10 percent by 2050, 39.6 billion tonnes (43.7 billion tons) of carbon dioxide would be prevented from escaping into the atmosphere.
In addition, this would result in at least a $5 trillion paycheck for the global economy, through new jobs, less damage from climate change phenomena, and – primarily – operational cost savings.
Fossil fuels are dirty, increasingly expensive, and harm the planet. China, for all its imperfections, has recognized this, as projects like this floating solar farm clearly show.