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Earth The Almighty Buck Science Technology

China Is On an Epic Solar Power Binge (technologyreview.com) 191

An anonymous reader links to an article on MIT Technology Review: It's worth taking a minute to appreciate the sheer scale of what China is doing in solar right now. In 2015, the country added more than 15 gigawatts of new solar capacity, surpassing Germany as the world's largest solar power market. China now has 43.2 gigawatts of solar capacity, compared with38.4 gigawatts in Germany and 27.8 in the United States. According to new projections, it seems that trend is going to continue. Under its 13th Five Year Plan, China will nearly triple solar capacity by 2020, adding 15 to 20 gigawatts of solar capacity each year for the next five years, according to Nur Bekri, director of the National Energy Administration. That will bring the country's installed solar power to more than 140 gigawatts. To put that in context, world solar capacity topped 200 gigawatts last year and is expected to reach 321 gigawatts by the end of 2016.
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China Is On an Epic Solar Power Binge

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  • That's nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @01:29PM (#51762237) Journal

    What's that in percentage of total eletric power?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 )

      Good question. I also know that China is an an 'epic': Coal power binge, Gas power binge, nuclear power binge, hydro power binge, etc...

      • If they binge on solar, so much the better. It may not generate as much energy as other items per area of land covered, but upkeep on solar generation is very low, and the ecological impact is relatively minor compared to burning fossil fuels. Their use of the technology will get them to make it better, which benefits everyone.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by gstoddart ( 321705 )

          Their use of the technology will get them to make it better, which benefits everyone.

          Well, let me offer a counter point (as someone who knows nothing about China based on what we see in the news) ...

          Widespread corruption and skirting of environmental laws will make a hell of a mess as people get swindled or they wreck their environment even further.

          The pattern seems to be that someone gets rich, a lot of other someones die or have their town ruined, and then the show trial comes in to try to make it look li

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @01:38PM (#51762379)

      It's nearly 36 Mr. Fusions.

    • Re:That's nice (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @01:43PM (#51762463)

      One reference claims China consumed 5130 billion kilowatt hours in 2014 [eia.gov]. Which is a really stupid way of saying terawatt hours. Divided by time, that is roughly 585 gigawatts continuous energy drain in 2014.

      So, 20/585 (assuming no increase in demand, ever) comes out to slightly over 3%.

      • You misread the article. The 20 GW figure was for a current annual increase in solar, not the total current amount of solar power.

    • See http://www.reuters.com/article... [reuters.com]

      The consume 5550000000000000 kWh, which is 5550000000 GWh. So... either my calculations are off, I misinterpreted something, or it's just a drop on a hot plate.

  • . . . .can we assume that these panels are being deployed in the less-developed hinterlands ? Between sunlight being blocked, and the need to clean particulates off the panels for best efficiency, one would reasonably guess that urban applications of solar in China are minimal. . . .
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @02:31PM (#51763037) Journal
      The air pollution might actually be one driver for solar deployment: yes, it will definitely reduce effectiveness in the short to medium term; but the quality-of-life costs of some of the nastier power plants make them desirable targets for retirement in order to improve public health and reduce dissatisfaction.

      If a given city is so polluted that it's cutting solar efficiency; that's a good sign that the people there probably aren't happy about it. It'll involve a bunch of shuffling around of the grid; but you would likely make people considerably happier if you can shut down the worst pollution sources, tide yourself over with power from elsewhere on the grid, and then get increasing amounts of local solar as the worst of the smog eventually settles out or blows away.
  • China Is On an Epic Solar Power Binge

    Poor "an." Why doesn't "an" get a capital letter?

    Of course the real question is why all the other words do, when No-one Ever Writes Anything Else Like This.

    • by doom ( 14564 ) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @05:31PM (#51764643) Homepage Journal

      Poor "an." Why doesn't "an" get a capital letter?

      Look, if you're going to work on re-writing the rules of standard English, do you think you could start on the quoting rules? Trailing punctuation goes inside the quotes, even if it's not part of the quote? Who ever came up with that? And anyway, English title casing rules are easy to deal with... https://metacpan.org/pod/Text:... [metacpan.org]

      Of course the real question is why all the other words do, when No-one Ever Writes Anything Else Like This.

      Right. On the internet WE ALL TALK LIKE THIS.

      • Look, if you're going to work on re-writing the rules of standard English, do you think you could start on the quoting rules? Trailing punctuation goes inside the quotes, even if it's not aripart of the quote? Who ever came up with that?

        Some of us are.

        Unlike some languages (such as French), which have centralized regulatory authorities, English is a language defined by its usage. Academics either track how it's used or (in some cases) try to impose their ideas, or define their regional dialect as "correct"

  • A lot of people's supply chains have been disrupted, because China is modernizing, building industrial scale solar and wind nationwide, and took all their coal plants offline to convert those they could to cogeneration.

    Which is a good thing.

    But it has meant they have reduced use of steel and coal dramatically.

    Many modern universities and entire cities on the coasts of the US and Canada now require all new construction be built with either super efficient HVAC or with load-bearing roofs and electrical system

  • Is this to compete (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 )
    Against solar city? Seriously, China invests far far more into coal plants and mines each year. Heck, China is around 1100-1300 GW of coal plants ( Chinese gov numbers do not agree with what locals claim and what the plants are ). And this is growing at ~52 GW/ yr. Solar will not make a dent in their coal unless they stop building new plants and stop their old ones.
    • Last announcement is the government is going to force the shutdown of about 30% of coal power plants (most of these are the dirtiest least efficient plants). This isn't a paper announcement either, as the government is under intense public pressure to deal with the air and water pollution. Their long range plan is to basically stop using coal power entirely (IIRC that's about 2050). They have more than 130 nuclear reactors under construction and are building so much solar PV and wind turbines it would make

      • I think the logic is that they replace the old power plants with new ones and in this way concentrate coal usage. That means the pollution becomes more manageable. They also add scrubbers to the new plants.

        I would take that 30% number with a grain of salt. They're not going to cut new power plants and the old ones are also smaller so it's not 30% of the energy production.

        Also with the economic crunch they're going through I think the 'solar binge' should be taken with a grain of salt. And a slice of lemon a

        • It's not so much the older ones, but the badly designed one. They have a LOT of coal plants that operate at about 30% because of all the coal plants they have. Scrubbers have also been mandatory on coal plants for about 10 years. Though it's mandatory to install scrubbers, it is not mandatory to actually run them and as far as I'm aware this hasn't changed though likely will in the near future.

          The 30% number is significant, they've already announced that nearly 1.8million jobs in coal mining and coal power

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @01:48PM (#51762547) Journal
    Germany>USA>China
    • Germany>USA>China

      uber alles...

  • What is an "epic solar power binge"? Is that Cantonese for "power trip"?
  • divide those numbers by about four to compare to the world's combined nuclear capacity of 384GW. or coal's 1500+MW.

    I'm actually for paving over desert with solar panels and storage systems and UHVDC to carry it around continents, could actually power the world. But this piecemeal approach isn't aggressive enough

    • ha that coal number should have GW not MW after it of course. 1.5 terrawatts!

  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2016 @04:52PM (#51764295)

    The raw material for solar panels is polycrystalline silicon. Due to increases in oil prices, subsidies for solar panels in Europe and elsewhere, the price of polysilicon spiked tenfold from $50/kg in 2005, to $475/kg in early 2008.

    China went on a crash building binge, in an attempt to capture the business and drive out non-Chinese competitors. They were too successful, and together with the world recession of that time (lower oil prices and end of subsidies), collapsed the price to $16/kg by $2012.

    What to do with the surplus they could no longer export? Why, PV the heck out of their own country and hopefully put a lid on pollution. Ironically, polysilicon production is hugely energy-intensive, so that each production facility pretty much needs a corresponding (coal-fired) power plant.

  • Economics as much Ecology is what is driving this. China has fully grasped that shipping money out for oil is just a huge parasitical drain on their economy going to countries that don't exactly promote world stability. Every watt of energy that is generated through solar is potentially a watt not bought from sponsors of terrorism as well as a watt not resulting in that money being shipped outside the economy.

    Thus by looking at the big picture it is sensible for a country to spend quite a bit more on a p
  • Unlike the surfaces over which they are typically erected (such as sand or light-colored roofs), which bounce a lot of the sun's input back into space through the "visible-light window" of atmospheric transmission, solar panels absorb pretty much all the light that strikes them. Less than a third is converted into electricity and the remaining more than two-thirds ends up being re-radiated as infrared, which generally doesn't make it back out.

    Were you worried about a greenhouse effect boost from carbon dio

  • when done at gun point.

    And Environment Impact is the sound of a rifle butt cracking a skull.

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