China commissions 5GW solar project, world’s largest

gcl new energy
The new project will meet more than a quarter of the annual electricity demand of Los Angeles. Image: GCL New Energy

China has commissioned the world’s largest solar project, a massive 5GW facility in the north-west of the Xinjiang region.

The huge project will cover 200,000 acres, and has been built in a desert area of Ürümqi, the regional capital, by the state-owned Ürümqi Zhonglvdian New Energy Co Ltd. The facility is expected to produce around 6,090GWh of electricity annually, enough to meet more than a quarter of the annual energy demand of Los Angeles, according to the city government.

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With this project, China now holds the three largest solar projects in the world by capacity, with the Ningxia Tenggeli and Golmud Wutumeiren projects already in operation, and each boasting a capacity of 3GW.

When asked about the project, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analyst Jenny Chase told PV Tech that the project is likely part of China’s ‘megabase’ programme, an initiative to instal 455GW of new solar and wind capacity in remote areas, such as wastelands and deserts.

“The first batch of 97GW of solar and wind megabase projects were supposed to be commissioned by the end of 2023, so this is probably part of the second batch, which includes at least 23.4GW of PV as tracked by BNEF last year,” said Chase, referring to figures from BNEF. “China aims for 200GW of megabase projects before the end of 2025 and another 255GW between 2026 and 2030, the period of the 15th Five-Year Plan.”

However, Chase also noted that a limiting factor for these megabase projects is “grid capacity for interprovince electricity transfer,” with a lack of grid capacity an ongoing challenge for many solar projects. Elisabeth Cremona, an energy and climate data analyst at Ember Climate, told PV Tech Premium last week that there can be “no energy transition without transmission”.

China’s dominance of the global solar sector is nothing new, but the rate of growth in the sector remains impressive; earlier this year, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) reported that China added 45.7GW of new capacity in the first quarter of the year, up from 33.6GW in the first quarter of 2023, and this latest project addition will only further this growth.

The news follows a number of investments made into considerably large-scale solar projects around the world, headlined by the ongoing work at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the UAE. The project currently has 2.6GW of capacity in operation, and reached financial close on a deal to add a further 1.8GW of new capacity earlier this year; should this capacity be realised, the project will become the world’s second-largest solar project by capacity.

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