China: a huge solar and wind project in the Gobi desert

China: a huge solar and wind project in the Gobi desert


Already a world leader in renewable energy, China continues to expand its reach. The country plans to develop 450 gigawatts of solar and wind power generation capacity in the Gobi desert region.

Growth in global capacity to generate electricity from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable technologies is set to accelerate over the next few years, with a new record set in 2021, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Despite rising costs for key materials used to make these facilities, additions of new renewable energy capacity last year reached nearly 290 gigawatts (GW).

By 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is expected to increase by more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800 GW, according to the same report. For comparison, this would represent the equivalent of the current total global energy capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined.

New projects in China

With nearly ten billion tons of CO2 emitted annually (largely due to the export of consumer goods and its heavy dependence on coal), China remains the most polluting country in the world. However, China also dominates renewable energy production with an estimated capacity of around 895 GW in 2020. For comparison, this is more than the European Union, the United States and Australia combined. And it’s not over.

According to Reuters, a series of gigantic solar and wind projects are indeed being developed in the Gobi region. Combined, these will increase China’s current capacity by almost half a terawatt (450 GW). About 100 GW of this new generation capacity is already under construction.

The announcement was made on Saturday March 5 by He Lifeng, director of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). As a reminder, President Xi Jinping had recently pledged to obtain more than 1.2 terawatts of wind and solar capacity by 2030.

In the meantime, the country will still have to rely on coal to support its energy networks. While around 43.5% of the country’s total installed capacity is now renewable, intermittency issues and other capacity factors are indeed keeping the percentage of actual power generated below 30%. Just a few weeks after COP26, which took place in Glasgow, China notably announced record coal production for 2021.