China's largest environmental desert control PV project starts operation in Kubuqi desert
Published: Dec 03, 2023 09:01 PM
Technicians install photovoltaic sand control project power generation panels in the Kubuqi Desert, on July 22, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

Technicians install photovoltaic sand control project power generation panels in the Kubuqi Desert, on July 22, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

China's largest environmental desert control photovoltaic (PV) project in the Kubuqi desert, North China's Inner Mongolia, has connected to the grid. The 100,000-mu (6,666 hectares) project is providing clean energy for China's power grid while helping improve the environment of the desert, showing China's latest efforts at eco-development.

With an installed capacity of 2 million kilowatts, the project is expected to generate 4.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, saving 1.23 million tons of standard coal and avoiding the emission of 3.19 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to China Three Gorges Corp.

The project will use drones in seeding and planting high-quality pasture grass and medicinal herbs under the PV power panels, achieving ecological restoration while developing agriculture in the field.

This environmental desert control system is a new use for PV. PV panels in the desert can collect enough dew to provide water for ecological restoration and develop agriculture under the panels, Tong Zhongming, general manager of Zhengzhou Ximei High-tech Energy Technology, told Global Times on Sunday. 

Tong has been closely watching the PV industry for years.

In recent years, China has invested heavily in developing clean energy and improving the environment. The project in Kubuqi attracted 11.15 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) in investment from China Three Gorges Corp and Elion Group, built energy storage systems for 400/800 megawatt-hours of energy storage systems as well as three 220kV booster stations, apart from the 2 million kilowatt PV field.

Ecological desert control PV system is gaining more and more popularity in China, as the system can provide clean and cheap energy to users while pushing ecological restoration, the price of PV generated electricity sending from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to Central China's Henan Province is about one-third of the price of electricity from local coal fired power station, Tong said.

In addition to the desert PV power plant, Inner Mongolia Power Group also invested 716 million yuan in the construction of a 500 kilovolt power transmission project and a 220 kilovolt supporting transmission line. 

Lack of transmission facilities has hindered the development of desert PV power plants in China, and the country needs to build more transmission facilities and upgrade its power grid, Tong said.

PV power generation is promoting China's energy transition. From January to October this year, new PV capacity reached 143 million kilowatts, up 145 percent year-on-year, according to the National Energy Administration.

Clean energy is occupying an increasingly important position in China's energy structure, with China's wind power and PV power generation exceeding 1 trillion kWh for the first time in 2022, accounting for 13.8 percent of the country's electricity consumption, according to National Energy Administration.