The title “world’s largest” often rotates among wind and solar farms as they surpass previous records in turbine height, panel count, or capacity. Recently, a subsidiary of the China Green Development Investment Group has inaugurated the world’s largest solar plant, a 3.5-gigawatt operation located in the Xinjiang region, as reported by PV Magazine. Known as the Xinjiang Midong solar project, it features over 5.26 million panels. For context, one gigawatt can power 100 million LED light bulbs.

According to Reuters, this expansive 32,947-acre solar farm, which became operational on June 3, will produce approximately 6.09 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually—enough to power Papua New Guinea for an entire year. The state-owned developer of this project manages wind and solar operations across 12 provinces. Their website emphasizes a commitment to a philosophy of being “people-oriented, ecology as the root, and culture as the soul.”

The project was constructed in phases, requiring an investment of 15.45 billion Chinese yuan (around $2.13 billion), PV Magazine notes. It includes monocrystalline bifacial double-glass PV panels and 129 miles of transmission lines. In 2022, photovoltaic solar power accounted for about 4.5% of global electricity, ranking behind hydropower and wind. Solar energy saw a 26% increase that year, with China contributing about 38% of the new capacity. The European Union and the United States added 17% and 15%, respectively, according to the International Energy Agency.

China’s vast deserts provide ideal locations for such large-scale operations. Photos from PV Magazine reveal rows of solar panels stretching across a desert landscape, illustrating that valuable land need not be graded to install panels.

Solar technology innovations are driving the expansion of large-scale operations and making household setups more affordable. Community solar projects, which offer clean energy access without the need for individual panels, often include subscription models that can save 5% to 20% on annual energy bills. Additionally, switching to solar power can prevent 8,500 pounds of planet-warming emissions each year, helping to mitigate global warming and its surprising effects, such as impacts on school attendance and academic performance.

Solar innovations are reaching new heights and unique designs. For instance, a project in the Gobi Desert uses thousands of mirrors to focus light onto a central point, generating heat to produce steam and power a turbine. The China Development Group aims to achieve over 20 gigawatts of renewable energy installations by the end of the year, with the Xinjiang project being a significant milestone in this ambitious plan.

By Impact Lab