While China still runs mostly on coal, in recent years, the Chinese government has been trying to make the switch to more environmentally-friendly sources of energy, demonstrating this commitment last week by keeping an entire province running with only renewable energy.
From June 17th to June 23rd, the vast but sparsely populated province of Qinghai was powered only by wind, solar and hydro plants, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. During that period of time, “green energy” plants provided the province with 1.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity — the equivalent of burning 535,000 tons of coal. 72% of that came from hydro plants, while the remainder was from wind and solar, said the provincial grid company.
Located in northwestern China, Qinghai is China’s fourth biggest province/region, but also only its 30th most populated (trailing behind only Tibet and Macau). The province is bigger than France, but 12 times less populated with just around 5.8 million people.
Qinghai is known for its abundance of natural resources, including high-altitude plains that are perfect for both wind and solar farms. Earlier this year, a massive solar farm was completed on the Tibetan Plateau that spans out 27 square kilometers, capable of powering 200,000 homes. Additionally, the province is home to many fast-flowing rivers that are the sources of China’s biggest waterways — the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Mekong.
In May of this year, hydro, solar and wind power were already providing more than 82% of the Qinghai power grid’s installed capacity of 23.4 million kilowatts. But, under China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, Qinghai will be transformed into a clean energy dynamo for the rest of China with plans to expand the province’s solar and wind capacity to 35 million kilowatts by 2020 to help supply central and eastern China with 110 billion kilowatt hours of energy from renewable sources each year.
These kinds of ambitious energy goals should help China achieve its Paris Climate Accord commitments in no time. Under the agreement, China has said that it will boost use of non-fossil fuels so that they account for 20% of its energy consumption by 2030. By the end of the decade, China plans to spend $360 billion on green energy projects, and it recently surpassed the US as the world leader in renewable energy development.
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