china desert solar pannel

China has quietly done something big in the desert

Pains for the moment, gains for the millennia. National development does not depend on bragging everyday, but any form of success is to have both feet on the ground. It can send out electricity even if it is a desert and bring more green.

3 mins read

China aims to build 450 GW of solar, wind power on Gobi desert. China has been building photovoltaic power plants on a large scale in the desert. People in these areas also planted fruits and vegetables, herbs, cattle, sheep, chickens and ducks in addition to power generation. The Gobi Desert has been changed from barren places into oases. China has changing its land in this way and generating green energy to the nation.

China is building the largest power station in the desert

On December 28, 2022, Three Gorges Group released a news , which stated that a mega solar and wind power base kicks off construction in the Kubuqi Desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Mega solar, wind power project starts construction in North China desert
▲ World's largest desert wind, solar power project starts construction

The National Development and Reform Commission announced to build wind power and photovoltaic power generation bases with a total installed capacity of 450 million kilowatts in the desert Gobi of Northwest China in the year of 2022. The total investment planned for this project is over 11.6 billion U.S. dollars. It is equivalent to the total power generation capacity of 20 Three Gorges dams. 

Cumulative installed solar power capacity in China from 2012 to 2021
▲ Cumulative installed solar power capacity in China from 2012 to 2021 (in gigawatts)

Kubuqi Desert is the 7th largest desert in China. It is also called the “Sea of Death” where no grass grows and the closest desert to Beijing. Now it is the place where many PV power generation companies are gathering here to start their business. CGNPC (China General Nuclear Power Group) alone has put into operation five PV power plants here with installed capacity of 620,000 kilowatts. It is equivalent to save 440,000 tons of coal and 1.1 million tons of CO2 a year.

One power plant is equivalent to the land area of Singapore

The photovoltaic power plants now operating on the Kubuqi Desert have turned the desert into an oasis. This photovoltaic power plant built in the desert is not the only one in China, nor is it the largest in scale.

China Kubuqi Desert
▲ China Kubuqi Desert

Qinghai’s Tala Tan PV plant covers an area of 609 square kilometers, almost as large as the entire land area of Singapore. Desert area accounts for 98.5% with an average annual sunshine of more than 2,700 hours.It become the world’s largest installed capacity of photovoltaic power generation park. The electricity generated here will sent to south part of China. The average wind speed here is reduced by 50% and the vegetation cover is restored to 80% due to the solar energy construction. Desert sand dunes turned into grassland oasis.

▲ Photovoltaic power plant in Tala Tan, Qinghai

Taklamakan Desert Highway, which relies on photovoltaic power plants to pump water, has become a model of “zero carbon highway”. The 566-kilometer-long Taklamakan Desert Highway is a zero-carbon demonstration project for desert highways last year. The 86 photovoltaic power stations are under construction. 109 water wells are replaced with electric pumping irrigation. This will save 1,082 tons of diesel fuel a year and reduces 3,400 tons of CO2 emissions.

▲ Taklamakan Desert Highway

Why China is keen to build photovoltaic power plant in the desert?

If 1% of China’s desert areas were covered with solar PV panels, it could solve the electricity problem of 1.3 billion people in the country. According to the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, the photovoltaic (PV) installations in China is likely to go up to 370 GW by 2024, which is twice the capacity of the US at that point.


There are two reasons why China is keen to build photovoltaic power plant in the desert?

  1. China is a vast country and the area of desert is also large. According to some data, desertified land in China accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s land area.
  2. Second, the deserts are concentrated in the central and western regions of China. The wind and solar energy resources are abundant in these areas. The exploitable amount capacity in terms of technology accounts for more than 60% of the national share.

Large-scale development and construction of desert photovoltaic can not only use of these low-value lands in the desert and obtain clean new energy, but also photovoltaic power plants become a modern method of sand control and sand prevention.

▲ Photovoltaic with farming model

Photovoltaic panels are like rows of awnings which blocks direct sunlight and reducing surface temperature as well as moisture evaporation. Regularly flushing water from the surface of the PV panels also gives more water to the plants in the ground. Green will back naturally. Energy investors also reap the rewards of economic and social benefits.

Global desertification now affects 20% of the earth’s population and one-third of the land area according to United Nations data. Especially in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, 3.6 billion hectares of rangeland and arable land are affected by desertification. Direct economic loss is 423 trillion USD per year.


Hope the desert becomes an oasis and the people are rich and happy.

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