Xinjiang’s Solar Giant: The World’s Largest Solar Farm (3.5-Gigawatt) Powers Up

Photo Credit: China Green Development Group

In an impressive stride towards renewable energy, a subsidiary of the China Green Development Investment Group has commenced operations at what is now the largest solar power plant in the world. Located in the Xinjiang region, the Xinjiang Midong solar project boasts a significant 3.5-gigawatt capacity, utilizing over 5.26 million solar panels. For comparison, a single gigawatt can power 100 million LED bulbs.

The expansive 32,947-acre facility began generating power on June 3. According to Reuters, the plant is expected to produce around 6.09 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power the entire nation of Papua New Guinea for a year.

The project is backed by a state-owned company that operates various wind and solar projects across 12 provinces. Their development philosophy emphasizes a focus on people, ecological sustainability, and cultural integration.

Built in stages, the massive solar farm required an investment of approximately 15.45 billion Chinese yuan (around $2.13 billion). The project features advanced monocrystalline bifacial double-glass photovoltaic panels and includes 129 miles of transmission lines.

Photovoltaic solar power contributed about 4.5% to global electricity production in 2022, trailing hydropower and wind energy. Last year, solar energy saw a 26% growth, with China accounting for roughly 38% of new capacity. The European Union and the United States followed, contributing 17% and 15% of new capacity respectively, as reported by the International Energy Agency.

China’s vast desert areas are ideal for large-scale solar projects. Images of the Xinjiang site reveal a sea of solar panels stretching across the desert landscape, demonstrating that valuable land does not need to be graded for solar installations.

Advancements in solar technology are driving the expansion of both large-scale operations and affordable residential setups. Community solar projects, for example, allow individuals to benefit from clean energy through subscription models that can save between 5% and 20% on annual energy bills without needing to install panels on their properties.

Switching to solar energy can significantly reduce carbon emissions, preventing about 8,500 pounds of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere each year. This reduction is critical in the fight against global warming, which has far-reaching impacts, including on school attendance and academic performance due to rising temperatures.

Innovative solar projects are emerging globally. In the Gobi Desert, for instance, a project uses thousands of mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a central point, generating heat to produce steam and drive a turbine.

China Development aims to exceed 20 gigawatts of renewable energy installations by the end of this year. The new Xinjiang solar farm represents a significant portion of this goal.