China Plans To Build $3 Billion-Worth Of Solar Farms Shaped Like Giant Pandas
By: Leanna Garfield
"In 2015, Ada Li Yan-tung, who was 15 years old at the time, came up with a novel idea to get more young people in China interested in renewable energy: Build a massive solar-energy farm that resembles a panda.
A year later, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and solar megadeveloper Panda Green Energy Group teamed up with Yan-tung to realize her vision.
In 2017, the groups built a 248-acre solar power plant in Daton, China, that looks from above like two smiling pandas. Now the UN, Panda Green Energy, and the Chinese government are on a mission to build 99 more similar solar farms across China.
The idea for a panda-shaped solar plant came from Hong Kong teenager Ada Li Yan-tung. She presented her vision at a United Nations youth climate conference in 2015.
The UNDP and Panda Green Energy Group developed the first Panda Power Plant in 2017 in Datong, China. The 100-megawatt, $52 million solar farm stretches 248 acres. Capable of generating power for more than 10,000 households annually, the plant was connected to Datong's electricity grid in June 2017.
A second Panda Power Plant was completed in Guigang, Guangxi, in October 2017. It has an installed capacity of 60 megawatts, enough to accommodate 6,000 homes per year.
These two power plants are part of China's larger goal of building 100 panda-shaped solar farms for Chinese cities.
China plans to build the power plants along the route of the nation's "Belt and Road Initiative," dubbed the "New Silk Road." Spanning more than 60 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, the plan is to build new highways, bridges, railways, real estate, and power grids in an effort to reinvigorate trade in the region.
China is already the largest investor in renewable energy, sinking $126.6 billion into the sector in 2017 — a 30% increase from the year prior.
By 2020, China hopes to generate 110 gigawatts of solar power annually — enough to power more than 30 million homes — as part of an ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions.
In order to move closer to this goal, a growing number of Chinese cities are building solar-energy megaprojects. In 2017, Anhui Province constructed a floating solar farm on top of an abandoned coal mine.
Earlier this year, workers turned on the 166,000-panel array, which can generate 40 megawatts of power — enough for 15,000 homes annually.
Panda Green Energy Group is one of China's largest developers of solar-energy projects. The company also hopes to expand its Panda Power Plants to other nations.
The Datong power plant will produce up to 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy in 25 years, according to the company. That will eliminate approximately 1.06 million tons of coal that would have been used to produce electricity, reducing carbon emissions by 2.74 million tons.