The Chinese have set themselves up to become a green energy super power. "Beijing saw a 'huge investment opportunity' in exporting low-carbon technology such as high speed rail, solar power or electric vehicles to developing nations in Africa, south Asia and Latin America," said the Guardian in January, 2017 and they've started by not only building huge solar arrays at home, but also financing projects outside their borders, like a new railroad line in East Africa.
Solar power is at the heart of Chinese investment. As such, they have built a spectacular new kind of solar farm that has been "successfully connected to the grid." It's a solar island, if you will. While it is smaller than many solar farms, producing enough power for around 15,000 homes, compared to larger solar farms that generate enough to power 750,000 homes, it does have some serious advantages.
For one, the area where they have built it is otherwise useless land. In a press release, the Chinese company that built the project said "the seriously mineralized water makes this area valueless." So it's practical, despite the large surface area needed for solar plants. It is also naturally cooled by the water that it sits on, something that the more common desert solar farms struggle with.
The United States has long seen itself as a leader in the field, but with President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, an agreement between 148 countries, the world will likely look elsewhere for leadership and the Chinese think they are in a great position to do just that.
The benefits of solar power are well documented. It's completely carbon neutral, so its use is far better on the environment than carbon-based energy sources like coal or natural gas. The technology has continued to come down in cost, and while it's not as cheap as coal and natural gas yet, it's getting close. Now it's true, solar arrays take up a huge amount space, but with innovations like this solar island in China built on otherwise useless land, much of that problem is immediately mitigated.
Another example of using 'useless' space for solar is filling the radiated land around the ill-fated Chernobyl power plant in the Ukraine with solar panels. Just think, there are millions of acres of uninhabitable land on this planet, not to mention the available space in the world's oceans, using those acres for purposes like this seems like a no-brainer.
A lot about energy future is uncertain. There are lots of ideas and lots of very smart people working on those ideas. Hundreds of billions of dollars are going into research and development. Whether the U.S. is part of the Paris Agreement or not, it is clear that with huge investments from countries like China and companies like Tesla and even ExxonMobile's shareholders getting into the act, the free market will be leading the charge towards a greener, cleaner future.
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