A tender to build several massive solar farms at sea has been issued by Shandong province. A critical industrial hub for China, Shandong’s latest renewables project promises to generate roughly 11.25 gigawatts of power. This is enough electricity to cover New Zealand’s peak energy consumption requirements.
Already home to more solar panels than anywhere else in China, Shandong’s government officials have set an ambitious 2025 completion date for the megaproject. And construction may not cease at 11.25 gigawatts either.
Situated about a five-hour drive south of Beijing, Shandong says it could install as many as 42 gigawatts of solar and 35 gigawatts of wind to the grid in the future. To put these figures into perspective, 42 gigawatts of electricity could power 347 million light bulbs.
Construction of Shandong’s solar infrastructure will commence this year, according to Bloomberg. Located in shallow waters off the coast, each farm will be fixed to the seabed instead of the floating platforms often employed when building solar farms on lakes, dams and reservoirs.
Floating solar very rarely features as part of energy mixes. In fact, it represents less than one per cent of the planet’s total installed solar power.
The added cost of mooring and anchoring each offshore farm is cited as one of the more problematic obstacles to entry. There is also the very obvious observation that water and electricity do not make good bed mates, meaning contractors have to protect and maintain many components, particularly from corrosive sea spray.
However, the benefits of offshore solar farms haven’t gone unnoticed. Building at sea frees up increasingly more valuable land for other uses. Building offshore also creates a cooling effect on solar panels, increasing performance by 5-10%, according to the International Finance Corporation.
The colossal operation in the Yellow Sea is one of many renewable engineering projects underway in China at present. The Asian heavyweight has been on a crusade to clean up its industry after its president, Xi Jinping, pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2060.
To meet Xi’s target, China has made clean energy a priority in its current five-year plan. The country says it wants 1 200 gigawatts of wind on solar energy installed to the grid by the end of the decade.
Xi and his government look to be on track to achieve this too. In fact, plans made public by state utility giants indicate that Beijing may hit its 2030 goal early.