China Switches-on World’s Biggest Solar Farm of 2 Lakhs Acre Area and 6.09 Billion kWh Annual Capacity

China has just switched-on what it believes to be the world’s biggest solar power plant to the grid in northwestern Xinjiang. The plant covers an area of 200,000 acres and is reported to have an output of 6.09 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. This impressive solar farm, located in the desert near the region's capital, Ürümqi, is now connected to China's grid.

Previously, the world's largest solar farm was also in China i.e. Golmud Solar Park, having installed capacity of 2.8 GW.

To recall, India's Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), is in process to develop 30 GW of clean energy at Khavda, Gujarat, to generate massive 81 billion units of electricity annually which is way bigger than this China's Xinjiang solar farm. The only difference is that the former is combination of Wind and Solar. In February this year AGEL operationalized the first 551 MW solar capacity at Khavda and started the supply to national grid.

The Xinjiang solar farm's capacity of 5 GW and its annual output of 6.09 billion kWh dwarf other massive projects globally, including India's Bhadla Solar Park, which was 2nd largest solar farm with a capacity of 2.7 GW and covers an area of 14,000 acres and Pavagada Solar Park, Karnataka with 2.05 GW capacity.

Let's break down the significance of this remarkable project of China:

Scale and Capacity

China Switches-on World’s Biggest Solar Farm of 2 Lakhs Acre Area and 6.09 Billion kWh Annual Capacity

The solar farm boasts a massive capacity of 5 gigawatts (GW), making it the largest in the world by capacity.

It spans an area equivalent to 200,000 football fields or approximately 620 square kilometers.

Its annual electricity generation of 6.09 billion kWh could power 2.03 million electric vehicles annually, assuming each EV consumes about 3,000 kWh per year.

China's Megabase Project

The Xinjiang solar farm is part of China's ambitious megabase project, which aims to install a total of 455 GW of wind and solar power in sparsely populated, resource-rich areas to serve the high electricity demand in the country's eastern regions. The project underscores China's commitment to expanding its renewable energy capacity and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

China Switches-on World’s Biggest Solar Farm of 2 Lakhs Acre Area and 6.09 Billion kWh Annual Capacity

These megabase projects transmit their generated energy to major urban centers, such as China's eastern seaboard. This move aligns with China's commitment to the global goal of tripling renewable energy sources by 2030 and transitioning to a more sustainable energy future.

Xinjiang's Role in Solar Energy

Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is abundant in solar and wind resources.

The region serves as a crossroads between Central Asia and East Asia.

Besides hosting massive solar and wind farms, Xinjiang is a major hub for the production of polysilicon, a critical raw material used in solar panel manufacturing.

Controversies and Ethical Considerations

Xinjiang has faced scrutiny due to reports and allegations regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the region. Investigations have found that the global production of solar panels is using forced labor from China's Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province 1. Xinjiang is a major producer of polysilicon, a key component in solar panels, and accounts for about 45% of the world's supply.

Besides, reports suggest that the material is obtained under a system of coercion, with workers being subjected to unprecedented levels of control, including the threat of re-education and internment 1. Human rights groups have accused the Chinese government of detaining more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in what the state defines as "re- education camps," where there is evidence of forced labor and other human rights abuses.

Calls for more transparency and ethical considerations in the supply chain have arisen alongside China's solar energy growth.

China's Solar Power Generation Growth

China's solar power generation has seen remarkable growth over the past decade. The country has expanded its solar capacity from just 4.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to over 390 GW in 2022 . In 2022 alone, new solar capacity additions reached a record of almost 85 GW.

In 2023, China's solar electricity generation capacity grew by an impressive 55.2%, adding over 216 GW of solar power during the year. China now boasts the three largest solar farms globally by capacity, with the Ningxia Tenggeli and Golmud Wutumeiren solar farms already online.

This showcases China's aggressive push to lead in solar energy production. It's part of China's broader strategy to increase its renewable energy footprint and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. This solar farm not only sets a new benchmark for solar energy projects but also represents a significant step towards achieving global sustainability goals.

In summary, China's commitment to renewable energy, exemplified by projects like the Xinjiang solar farm, plays a crucial role in addressing global energy challenges and transitioning toward a sustainable future.
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