Great things are happening in Inner Mongolia when it comes to solar power. This Mongol autonomous region located in northern China is becoming a powerful player in the alternative energy sector, and as such China wants to use the region to house various solar farms.
The Chinese government, in partnership with the American company First Solar, is planning to build a 2000 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm in the Mongolian desert. Set for completion in 2019, the Inner Mongolia solar farm project is the biggest one to date. Previously, the largest project involving First Solar is a proposed 550 megawatt solar power farm in California.
This project will also be part of the proposed 11,950 MW alternative energy park proposed in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. The alternative energy park will feature solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wind, and hydro power plants. According to the plan, wind farms will produce 6950 megawatts, solar thermal will generate 720 megawatts, and photovoltaic farm will produce 3900 megawatts of what. Hydro storage will contribute 70 megawatts, and the balance of 310 megawatts will be from biomass sources.
First Solar is considering building a manufacturing plant in China to provide the thin film panels for said project, which will lower the overall project cost. The construction phase will begin next year for a 30 MW demo module. Over the next ten years additional modules will be added, and the solar farm should be able to power around three million homes in China. If there are no hitches in the plan, by 2014, 100 megawatts and 870 megawatts should be completed. The final 1000 megawatts will go online by December of 2019.
The Ordos solar power project will help China achieve its goal of having 20% of its energy coming from alternative, sustainable sources by 2020. China is home to a blooming solar power industry, but local companies such as the third-largest solar panel maker Suntech, export most of their products.
There is talk that First Solar’s cadmium telluride solar panels are less effective in generating electricity from the sun than Suntech’s crystalline silicon cells. However, the advantage of using First Solar cells is that they are cheaper, which translates into big savings considering the size of the proposed project.
First Solar continues to expand its business beyond manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels into building power plants. In addition to the proposed Ordos solar farm, the company has signed with two California utilities to produce 1100 megawatts of electricity.
The Ordos renewable energy park will be operated by First Solar but will eventually be owned and run by a Chinese utility in the future.