China Speeds Ahead With First Solar Thermal Power Plant

China is looking to diversify its clean energy sources and announced this week that the country is soliciting tenders for the country’s first solar thermal power plant, to be located in Northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The plant will be a 50 megawatt solar thermal power plant, taking up 100 hectares of land. It is expected to generate 120 million KWH of power per year and cost $240.5 million dollars to construct and operate.

Solar thermal power plants are not dependent on solar panels, which take up a fair amount of energy to begin with. The plants capture the sun’s heat to propel turbines and produce steam, and the captured heat is stored during the day and used to generate power in the evening. Solar thermal power plants are thus more reliable than photovoltaic plants. The downside is that when a plant has under 200 megawatt capacity, cost effectiveness is a concern.

To address that, “Chinese research institutes, including some under Tsinghua University, are working on devices that can capture and store more heat, which should bring down the cost of solar thermal power plants and provide greater power stability,” reports Xinhua.

“China doesn’t want to lag behind in its development,” said researcher Wang Zhifeng, in the Xinhua report.

Indeed, with China’s recent ramp-up in infrastructure projects, including super-speed railways and highway expansions, it seems the country is planning to take no risks of falling behind other countries.

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[Image: flickr user afloresm]