The world's largest desert project

Apr. 18, 2024

Located in Cohen, California, the Sun Star Power Plant takes the crown as the most massive solar power establishment in the United States. This colossal facility stretches more than 8 square miles, outputting an immense 579 megawatts of energy, sufficient to fuel approximately 250,000 homes. A remarkable feat indeed! Nevertheless, a daunting 6,500 miles away, in an isolated desert, looms another solar facility that could dwarf it. With the capability to outshine every other global solar power infrastructure, this isn't a solitary case - there are more such formidable structures in existence.


Typical of many arid regions, China's Kubuqi Desert basks in hot sunlight for around 280 days per year, complemented by constant, stable winds. These harsh conditions make survival and agriculture truly daunting. Yet paradoxically, it transforms into a prime site for harnessing solar and wind energy. With an area that rivals 20 Central Parks, China is erecting a substantial renewable energy hub in this desert. Once it reaches its full potential, the facility could crank out a staggering 16 gigawatts of electricity, enough to cater to the power needs of over a million homes.


The Kubuqi Desert Project in China


Proudly standing as the nexus of roughly 225 ongoing base networks in the desertic northwest regions of China, Kubuqi along with its peer projects are making steady progress. With an anticipated power generation capability of a staggering 455 gigawatts - a quantum split into 60% solar and 40% wind - the scale is nothing short of breathtaking. It trumps the clean energy generation capabilities of any other nation globally. In fact, this monumental system could nearly satisfy the current energy demands of a nation as populous as India. To put it into perspective, 455 gigawatts equals the collective green energy capacity of the UK, Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil. Set to become functional within one to two years, these bases signal what could be a shift in global renewable energy dynamics, possibly dwarfing the current global generation capacity of renewable energy.


Highlighting from previous discussions, it's worth noting that the desert regions are exceptionally apt for generating renewable energy. The high sunlight suits solar farms, whereas the open, warm, and even desert terrain proffers constant wind for turbines, making energy generation dependable. The desert land, being economical, is capitalized by the country, utilizing ample sand to craft enormous renewable energy installations, underscoring reductions in solar and wind energy costs. It shows China's capability and potential for establishing large-scale economical solar and wind facilities.


Furthermore, China identified the opportunities of supplying Germany's growing appetite for solar panels from as far back as the 1990s. Leveraging local raw materials and networks, China manufactures an abundance of cost-effective solar panels. Not all international solar firms are impressed with China's government support and incentives, leading some nations to place tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports. Nonetheless, in the 2000s, China devised plans for homegrown renewable energy, boosting domestic desires for its panels and turbines.


As the economy and industry expanded, so did the appetite for renewable energy. China laid the foundations for these energy bases through the acquisition of a plethora of green technology, robust manufacturing prowess, and a vast expanse of economically viable land prime for solar and wind energy utilization. Interestingly, the methods behind their construction isn't as fascinating as the swiftness of its execution. This showcases China's steadfast commitment to bolstering renewable energy development.


In 2021, Beijing, one of the planet's largest and most influential megacities, grappled with a serious power outage crisis. This was not an isolated incident. That year, a global coal shortage emanated due to the ongoing pandemic. With over half of China's energy supply being coal-reliant, these shortages plunged certain regions of China into darkness. Simultaneously, droughts jeopardized hydropower plants in fulfilling their demands. Such scenarios could be considered catastrophic both economically and for the Chinese populace.


The circumstance has recurred. Here we are again at Beijing, not enveloped in darkness this time, but engulfed in a dense, toxic smog. The quest for vast amounts of energy to cater to industrial demand often, regrettably, veers towards the fastest and easiest solution - fossil fuels. China's colossal industrial might necessitates an equally large electricity supply, supplemented by a massive population's electricity consumption. Most of this stems from fossil fuels, leading to grave pollution. Certainly not a desired sight for an emerging global power. In the realm of fossil fuels, China stands as the second-largest oil consumer worldwide. In 2023, China guzzled well over 13 million barrels of oil per day, however, its production was only around 4 million barrels daily, inclusive of strategic reserves. The resultant need to import approximately 11.4 million barrels daily incurred an enormous expense.


Agreeably, having our energy demands met without foreign oil is preferable. The reason behind China's aspiration to raise its renewable energy by 45.5 million kilowatts is multi-pronged. It has goals of enhancing its people's quality of life, ensuring energy self-reliance, and upgrading its worldly perception. The path towards green growth indeed carries limitless advantages. Surprisingly, change, even from a major pollutant like China, seems tangible. This green pivot by China contains valuable lessons for other nations and its considerable progress in this field is significant for countries across the globe.


While China's renewable energy bases predominantly sit in the scarcely populated western regions, its major urban areas rest on the eastern coast. Bridging this distance for energy transfer without considerable loss presents a challenge. China is addressing this with the introduction of ultra-high voltage transmission lines. Current production of their green energy surpasses their utility needs, instigating power limitations. The global impact of their energy generation might be hampered if these renewable sources don't truly supplant fossil fuels. Despite this, there are valuable takeaways. Recently, the U.S. enacted the Inflation Reduction Act, setting aside $500 billion for federal expenditure and tax rebates aiming to curb inflation.

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China State Grid $22 Billion of UHV Power Lines


From extraction to the production of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries on US soil, there's an opportunity for cost reduction, boosting uptake pace, and bolstering our energy security. This indeed signifies a key stride in the appropriate route. Unlike numerous eco-friendly tech initiatives, the Kubuki Clean Energy Base isn't a theoretical framework or a start-up idea. It holds a tangible existence, is in operation, and its magnitude is on the rise. In the forthcoming years, we can anticipate the commissioning of even more such bases.


China has almost caused overnight doubling of the global capacity of renewable energy production. So, what about the dissatisfaction zones? This isn't completely a positive facet or accomplishment. The nation's emission levels are on an upswing, with the establishment of more coal-fired power plants compensating for the intermittent nature of renewable energy. A rebound in carbon dioxide emissions was noticed post the 2023 COVID-19 era. Analyses speculate that China might have hit its carbon emissions peak. The post-2024 data does indicate a downward trend in emissions, yet the sanctioning of new coal-fired power plants after 2023 seemingly appears retrogressive. Countries like Germany had committed to coal phase-out by 2030, but geopolitical and energy crises have deferred this. With China responsible for half the world's coal consumption, their continued erection of more coal-fired power plants incites worry. As forewarned by analysts, the clash between renewable energy and fossil fuels in China is escalating, signifying a widespread struggle.

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