The Kubuqi desert region was once called “the sea of death”, mainly because it is a totally arid, barren and unpopulated area. Now, hundreds of blue solar panels and green vegetation adorn the landscape. Nobody thought 20 years ago that this autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in northern China was going to become the protagonist of the energy transition of the second largest economy in the world. And that it was going to end up housing the largest solar panel on the planet.
The Junma power station, located in the Kubuqi desert in Ordos, is just one part of a gigantic mega-project China is carrying out in Inner Mongolia. This area of about 1.4 million square meters houses around 196,000 photovoltaic panelswhich makes it the largest photovoltaic station located in a desert in the world. The project aimed at producing renewable energy for the entire nation It has no less than 11,000 million euros in budget and it is part of a huge push by the country to achieve its climate goals.
The station will have a total of 16 gigawatts of power capacity when completed, according to a statement from China Three Gorges Group, one of the two constructors. and will be able to send annually 40,000 million kilowatts / hour of electricity to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, with more than half from clean energy.
It is currently being built in stages, in cooperation with the Mengneng Group of Inner Mongolia, and Right now it is in the initial phase, with the construction of 1 GW of solar energy. Upon completion, the massive facility will include 8 GW of solar power, 4 GW of wind power, and 4 GW of upgraded coal capacity.
The project is actually a brutal energy feeder for the country. At the moment it has already generated more than 2,312 million kWh of green electricity, which is equivalent to save 760,000 tons of coal standard and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.85 million tons, according to the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), the project contractor.
The impact on local life
It is normal to think that a size of such magnitudes would have a negative impact on the local life of this Mongolian region. But according to project authorities, it doesn’t have to be that way. While the station is being developed, the project wants promote ecological governance of the desert and transform the area bringing green energy to the local population and industries, repopulating arid areas with life and generating income for local residentssince they can grow plants and graze between and under the solar panels.
“Photovoltaic panels can not only generate electricity, but also block the wind and improve the living environment for plants under solar panels,” they explained from SPIC.
Everything is framed in a context in which China is already a world leader in the production of renewable energy. The country has followed a long term trend to ambitiously expand its solar and wind power projects on its borders to achieve more drastic climate targets than Westerners (given their enormous energy consumption). The general plan includes building 450 gigawatts of renewable energy, mainly in inland areas. And it aims to have 1,200 gigawatts of wind and solar power by 2030.
It must be taken into account that the manufacture of steel and cement in the Asian country is half of world production. And this, added to its chemical plants and non-metallic mineral factories, represent an incredible energy expenditure that has to come from somewhere. And the path that the country is following is decided: it can only be done with clean energy.
Images: State Power Investment Corporation Nei Mongolian Energy Co