China recently announced a plan to build a massive solar farm in a a remote northwestern province. The project will provide power without polluting China’s skies, but more importantly will make use of some of the country’s oversupply of solar panels. Quartz reports:
In an effort to wean itself from coal-fired power polluting its cities, the government this year announced ambitious renewable energy targets, including the construction of 10,000 MW of solar projects.The new policy came as China’s photovoltaic panel makers faced falling revenues and multibillion-dollar deficits after embarking on a manufacturing boom that allowed them to corner the global solar market but sent prices plummeting. Projects such as the power plant in Turpan Prefecture announced yesterday help soak up China’s excess manufacturing capacity while creating jobs for local workers. As part of the deal with local government, Trina will build a factory in Turpan.
So, to recap: China picked a loser, and to soak up its glut of cheap (and often shoddily-made) panels, it’s building out white elephant projects like this plant in a remote desert.Beijing’s leadership may not feel like it has any alternatives, having already invested so heavily in the nascent green technology. In fact, just yesterday, China’s State Council reaffirmed its commitment to growing its domestic solar industry. But this isn’t a green success story—subsidizing production doesn’t change the fact that solar is more expensive than fossil fuels.Ideally, China would focus more on the research and development of more effective—and more competitive—solar technologies, rather than the manufacture and installation of current-gen panels. That way, at least, the world might get to see what viable solar energy looks like.