The Chinese have recently embraced renewable energy, and they have just opened the world’s largest floating solar power plant. It is situated in a shallow lake in Huainan, a prefecture located between Beijing and Shanghai on China’s east coast.
That lake, ironically, was produced by coal mining. There used to be a coal mine in the area, and it gradually caused the land to subside and form a large depression in the ground. Heavy rains and floods did the rest.
While solar panels can be placed almost anywhere, there are advantages to placing them in a large body of water. Since the panels cover the water, they reduce evaporation in reservoirs. Solar panels in water last longer than do those on land, for the water cools the air and keeps them from overheating. Solar panels in water are also more efficient than are those on land. Finally, putting solar panels in water frees up the nearby land, which has to be a large selling point to a country with a population of over one billion.
A “Bloomberg” report published last January noted that solar power is cheaper than coal in some countries. It also predicted that solar power may become the cheapest form of power anywhere within a decade. Prices of solar power have dropped an impressive 62 percent since 2009, and the report expects solar power to become even less expensive. A typical ground-mounted solar system that generates roughly one megawatt of energy currently costs $1.14 per watt. By 2025, that same system could cost as little as 73 cents per watt.
China is the largest market for solar power, and it may see solar power’s prices dropping below those of coal by 2030. It has already installed more solar arrays than any other country, even Germany which has the second-greatest number of solar plants.
The Chinese government has embraced solar power and other renewable energy sources in the hopes of reducing carbon emissions. To that end, it plans to spend at least $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020. Increasing the infrastructure needed for renewable energy could produce 13 million jobs. The Chinese government has also pledged to increase the amount of energy it gets from renewable sources like solar power by at least 20 percent by 2030.