A 40 MW ‘floating’ solar power station has come on stream in China. The solar array located near Huainan (Anhui province) has been built on a lake over a collapsed coal mine and is the largest floating solar project in the world.
The power plant built by Sungrow Power Supply will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes.
Anhui province is a coal-rich region, and the solar plant is located on a lake that was once the site of intensive mining. Building solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs, especially manmade lakes that are not ecologically sensitive, helps protect agricultural land and terrestrial ecosystems from being developed for energy use.
The water also cools the electronics in the solar panels, helping them to work more efficiently. For similar reasons Britain built a 23,000-panel floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Heathrow airport in 2016 to help power the Thames Water treatment plant.
The Sungrow solar farm is just one tiny piece in China’s push towards renewable energy. The country recently announced it would invest $361 billion in renewable power by 2020, and by 2022 could produce 320 gigawatts of wind and solar power and 340 gigawatts of hydropower. Renewables are responsible for 11 % of China’s energy and may reach 20% by 2030.
China also has massive non-floating solar projects such as the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau which hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Under construction is a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.