Vast Deserts Become Sources of Plentiful Energy

Vast Deserts Become Sources of Plentiful Energy

The country is making a faster transition from dirty energy to fossil fuels as it works toward becoming carbon neutral by 2060, and Xinjiang is part of that transition.

The vast Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, with its vast desert expanses, strong winds, and intense sunshine, has emerged as a leader in the nation’s push for new energy. It is generating energy for a greener future using its natural resources.

According to the Xinjiang branch of State Grid Corp of China, the largest State-owned utility company in the nation, Xinjiang’s production of renewable energy reached 37.22 billion kilowatt-hours in 2022, up 25.5 percent year-over-year.

Twenty other Chinese provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, including Henan, Anhui, and Shandong provinces, received about 30% of the total power transmitted from clean sources. According to the branch, it has successfully balanced the nation’s power supply and demand.

According to the report, the region transmitted a record-breaking 125.8 billion kWh of electricity to other areas of the nation last year, an increase of 2.77 percent from the previous year.

The country’s accelerating switch from dirty to clean energy, which includes Xinjiang, is only one aspect of its pledge to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

According to a joint statement issued in 2022 by the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration, China intends to accelerate the construction of solar and wind power generation facilities in the Gobi Desert and other arid regions as part of efforts to boost renewable power.

By the end of 2021, 100 gigawatts of wind and solar power capacity across 19 provinces in China had already been installed as part of the country’s first phase of wind and solar power projects. The second phase, which is expected to invest up to 3 trillion yuan ($442 billion) in related industries, will concentrate on the Gobi and other rocky and sandy regions.

In China’s northwestern autonomous regions like Inner Mongolia, Ningxia Hui, and Xinjiang Uygur, which have abundant renewable energy resources, the majority of the projects will be situated. Local governments are ensuring that the nation has a sufficient supply of power in addition to converting their advantages in local resources into economic advantages.

Market watchers and sector experts anticipate that China’s attempt to significantly increase its wind and solar power capacity will help the nation further its transition to low-carbon energy and ensure domestic energy security.

According to Luo Zuoxian, director of intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute, the transition will further optimize China’s energy mix and support the country’s goal of having non-fossil fuels account for 20% of total energy consumption by 2025 and 25% by 2030.

China’s ambition to install 1.2 billion kilowatts of wind and solar power by 2030 will also be aided by its plan to construct enormous wind and solar power facilities in the country’s desert regions.

The project will increase the amount of clean power in the nation’s energy mix while assisting the nation in achieving its goals for sustainable energy. According to him, the involved regions will also be able to support the growth of an industrial chain for the production of new-energy machinery.

According to Luo, government initiatives to switch to renewable energy have made it possible for areas like Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, whose economic development has long depended on intensive use of conventional energy sources that brought with them issues like pollution from burning coal, to transition to a new energy-based structure.

Along with Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Qinghai have also seen an increase in the installed capacity of new energy that is connected to the grid recently. By the end of 2022, the number of new energy connections in Inner Mongolia, the largest coal producer in the nation, had surpassed 65 million kW due to the region’s adjustment of its energy structure while maintaining coal production.

Last year, a number of wind power projects in Inner Mongolia were also completed, including one in Ulanqab with a 6 million kW capacity and another in Xiliin Gol League with a 7 million kW capacity.

The goal of Inner Mongolia, a significant national energy producer, is for new energy to surpass thermal power generation by 2030.

According to the NEA, China’s new energy sector is now in the lead globally in terms of installed capacity, technical levels, and industrial chain capacity.

According to the report, China’s green transition has been gaining momentum, with installed capacity for renewable energy generation rising to 1.1 billion kW over the past ten years. Hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass have the highest generation capacities in the world, it continued.

Domestic firms are also developing plans to further explore the potential in China’s arid regions, including the Gobi Desert. They are doing this because they see significant opportunities there.

The Kubuqi Desert, the seventh-largest desert in China, is located in Inner Mongolia, and China Three Gorges Corp is currently working on a massive clean energy project there with an investment of 80 billion yuan and an installed capacity of 16 million kW. The project is anticipated to be the largest power generation center of its kind in desert areas in the world, with a capacity for 8 million kW of solar power and 4 million kW of wind power.

According to the company, the project also includes 4-6 million kW of energy storage as well as a cutting-edge and effective coal power installation with a capacity of up to 4 million kW in a supporting role.

The center is anticipated to be able to deliver 40 billion kWh of electricity annually—more than half of it clean energy—to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region once it is finished. According to the company, that is equivalent to saving about 6 million metric tons of standard coal and reducing carbon dioxide by about 16 million tons.

Wei Hanyang, a partner at the nonprofit Crossborder Environment Concern Association, noted that renewable energy projects are typically capital-intensive and those with more than 1 GW of installed capacity in sizable deserts would require multiple channels of financing and policy support, an area in which China excels.

“It is also likely that large, State-owned enterprises will reallocate some funding from previous coal projects to renewable centers so that the process can be accelerated,” Wei said.

“China will need to increase participation from different societal sectors and establish an appropriate compensation mechanism as more gigawatt-level centers are built.”

As part of its efforts to advance the transition to green energy, the State Power Investment Corp. has also vowed to keep accelerating the building of sizable wind and solar power facilities in the Gobi Desert and other arid regions.

According to a statement issued by the NDRC in January, China is anticipated to produce 3.3 trillion kWh of electricity annually from renewable sources by 2025 as part of its plan to advance its green energy transition during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25) period.

During that time, the generation of renewable energy is anticipated to increase by more than 50%, with the production of wind and solar power expected to double. According to the plan, fossil fuels will be further replaced by renewable energy to help the nation build a low-carbon energy system.

Reference: China Daily

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