China's 248-Acre Giant Panda Solar Farm
Solar farms are generally set up in rows and columns to form a grid. But in China, there’s one solar station designed to make people smile—the Panda Power Plant. Fly over Datong County, China, and you’ll see two giant pandas from above, one is even waving and smiling at you. The pandas are actually made of thousands of solar panels engineered and constructed on a 250-acre landscape.
Together, with the other adjacent panels included, they form a 100-megawatt farm. The first phase of the billion-dollar project was recently completed, which includes one 50-megawatt plant.
The Panda Power Plant is an initiative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to raise awareness among young people about renewable energy. The organization teamed up with solar mega-developer Panda Green Energy Group to begin the construction process. With the help of the Chinese government, they are on a mission to build 99 more panda farms across the country in the next five years. Collectively, the ambitious project is estimated to cost $3 billion in investment.
The 100-megawatt panda farm is capable of generating electricity for more than 10,000 households each year. It is projected to replace burning 1 million tons of coal in the next two decades. By October 2017, a second Panda Power Plant was also completed in Guangxi. It has an installed capacity of 60 megawatts, which can power up to 6,000 homes.
The idea for the panda-shaped solar farm originated from a teenager based in Hong Kong. Then 15-year old Ada Li Yan-tung first presented her vision at the United Nations youth climate conference in 2015. UNDP and Panda Green Energy Group reached out to her a year later to turn her vision into a reality. Thus, the “Panda 100 Program” was born.
The black and white color contrast of the panda landscape is achieved by using a different types silicon cells. The black part is made of mono-crystalline silicon solar cells. The grayish white part is made of the thin film cells and N-type double-sided mono-crystalline silicon cells. As a result, the solar farm can be seen as a vivid image of a giant panda from an aerial view.
China is next to Germany when it comes to producing the most solar energy worldwide, having an installed capacity of around 130 GW. They have accounted about 50% of global solar demand in 2017. They are also the largest producer and buyer of solar panels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 60% of the world’s solar panels are made in China.
As a country with the largest population and carbon footprint, China continues to show its commitment to renewables. It is actually home to many massive solar farms, including the 850 MW station on the Tibetan Plateau made of 4 million panels. Several more are currently under construction. Solar panels continue to get cheaper in China, so it’s getting hard for investors to ignore the growth of this green energy.