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China is working on multiple approaches to increase it renewable energy capacity

Most large-scale renewable energy projects have drawbacks. Wind power creates noise pollution and can be unpredictable; hydroelectric dams require flooding of large tracts of land; and solar power is expensive and inefficient.

Despite all of these drawbacks, the Chinese government is funding several large-scale renewable energy projects as it faces both an energy crisis and high national levels of air pollution due to coal fired power plants. Beijing has shown plans to achieve 10 percent of its energy production from renewable resources by 2010, reaching 15 percent by 2020 through the use of wind, hydro, biomass and solar power. Multiple government incentives are being promoted to encourage growth in these areas.

A large percentage of China's renewable energy is provided by the controversial Three Gorges Dam project. It is the world's largest power plant, with an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts.

The latest renewable energy project is a 2 gigawatt solar power plant in Ordos City, located in Inner Mongolia. The sparsely populated region is dominated by large, flat plateaus of grasslands.  Phase 1 will begin construction by June of next year as a 30 megawatt demonstration project. Phases 2 and 3 will be completed by 2014, and Phase 4 will complete the project by 2019. The last three phases will produce 100, 870, and 1000 megawatts respectively.

While estimates of China's solar capacity total around 90 megawatts, the Chinese government has expressed a goal of two gigawatts by 2011. It is also targeting a capacity of 10 to 20 gigawatts by 2020.

All of this points to a healthy future for First Solar, the Arizona-based company which has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build the Ordos City project.

“This major commitment to solar power is a direct result of the progressive energy policies being adopted in China to create a sustainable, long-term market for solar and a low carbon future for China,” stated Mike Ahearn, CEO of First Solar at the MOU signing ceremony at the company's headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.

“We’re proud to be announcing this precedent-setting project today. It represents an encouraging step forward toward the mass-scale deployment of solar power worldwide to help mitigate climate change concerns.”

The cost of the project has not been disclosed, but the project will definitely be profitable due to the use of a feed-in-tariff which will guarantee premium pricing of electricity produced by the power plant. Regional power utilities will be obligated to purchase minimum amounts of power from the project. Feed-in-tariffs are being increasingly used by the Chinese government to offset the extremely cheap power from coal-fired power plants.

“The Chinese feed-in tariff will be critical to this project,” Ahearn said. “This type of forward-looking government policy is necessary to create a strong solar market and facilitate the construction of a project of this size, which in turn continues to drive the cost of solar electricity closer to ‘grid parity’ – where it is competitive with traditional energy sources.”

First Solar is considering the construction of a thin-film photovoltaic module manufacturing site in the area to support the project. A recycling plant to process used modules is also being considered.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with one of the solar industry’s global technology leaders in a project of such significance to Ordos’s low carbon future,” said Cao Zhichen, the Vice Mayor of Ordos Municipal Government.

“Discussions with First Solar about building a factory in China demonstrate to investors in China that they can confidently invest in the most advanced technologies available.”

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By Steve73 on 9/9/2009 8:37:51 PM , Rating: 2
This is a token effort meant to say "Hey, I'm green two." China has been putting up new coal plants like there is no tomorrow. This money would be better served on implementing cleaner coal technologies to cut down there existing pollution. Better yet if we (U.S) were to invest in technology to clean our own coal plants, we could turn around and sell this technology to the Chinese and actually make a difference in the world.

By wired00 on 9/9/2009 9:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
the US WAS planning to push through with the whole clean coal thing until they canned it... I think anything to push "clean" energy is a good thing whether or not the country (china) is building new coal plants weekly. Atleast some progress is being made. China is also moving ahead with clean coal research projects regardless of the cost. Not a single other country has finished a clean coal liquifying project :(

By Steve73 on 9/9/2009 10:47:33 PM , Rating: 2
It’s too bad that SOME within the GREEN movement care nothing about choosing the best method for cleaning the environment - it would seem that they are more close minded than their constituents on the other side of the aisle. If they would be willing to adopt other energy methods such as nuclear or clean coal energy, they would have a larger fan base. Unfortunately, many within the Green movement have written off capitalism and will not even entertain any other method other than solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, and tidal energy.

By wired00 on 9/10/2009 12:27:49 AM , Rating: 2
hey Geothermal is great. I just got back a trip to Philippines and its one of their primary power sources (30 odd %?), but of course many countries don't have volcanoes in abundance ;)

i agree though, greens really need to wise up to the fact that coal isn't going anywhere soon. its cheap and in abundance... but most importantly america, china and russia are swimming in it. I see "clean coal" being around for years. problem is its just so damn expensive and noones making progress on liqufication of CO2. US had the whole FutureGen project but who knows what its future holds

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