Though the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) generation industry has been developing in China for ten years, it has not made substantial progress yet.

From the technical perspective, the gap between China and other countries is not wide and we have made a lot of breakthroughs in research field these years and even took the lead in some aspects. However, from the perspective of commercialized operation, the construction of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants and the high electricity cost have restricted the industrialization process of solar-thermal power generation of China. 

On August 27, the construction of the world’s largest energy storage material base of solar-thermal power generation was officially stared in the Delingha industrial park of circular economy test area in Qaidam Basin of Qinghai Province. 


This is a molten salt project (1 million tons), invested by Shenzhen Enesoon Technology Group Corp., with RMB 8 billion yuan in three phases. Meanwhile the construction of CGNPC Qinghai Delingha 50 MW groove-type solar-thermal power generation demonstration project was just started on July 1st by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (a industry leader of the nuclear power industry of China) at the place nearby, This is also the first construction of large commercial projects in recent years in the field of solar-thermal power generation.


One road away from CGNPC Qinghai Delingha 50 MW groove-type solar-thermal power generation demonstration project, the first industrialized solar-thermal power generation project in China (sponsored and built by SUPCON Group) was officially combined to the grid at the end of last year. Considering the phenomenon of newly built solar-thermal power generation central and private enterprises and relevant industrial chain companies one after another, the managing director of China Energy Saving Photothermal Technique Co., Ltd., Yao Zhihao said, "we believe that 2014 will be the first year of solar-thermal power generation in China and this huge market is waiting for investors".

According to Nuo Weixing, the governor of Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Atonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province and director of Management Committee of Qaidam Experimental Area for Circular Economy, the Qaidam basin is an area affluent with solar resources and suitable for developing solar-thermal power generation projects and there is an available area over 500 square kilometers in Delingha. A group of solar photovoltaic power generation projects, which are located in this area, have succeeded in commercialized grid-connection. In the next step, this new development model of solar-thermal power generation will be further promoted in Haixi. Not only in Qinghai, but also in the deserts and desertification region of northwest China, covering from Inner Mongolia in the east to Gansu in the west, the departments concerned have approved more than 20 solar-thermal power generation projects since last year and now many of them are in the early-stage preparations.

Bright business prospect

China is affluent with solar thermal resources because of the unique condition that most of the northwest China is on the "sun belt". The GIS analysis shows that the potential solar-thermal power generation in northwest China (accounts for over two thirds of the total area of our country) can be about 16,000 mW, which almost equal to that of US. In terms of electric energy production, China’s potential solar-thermal power generating capacity is 42,000 Mega kWh, while at present all kinds of electricity is totally about more than 5000 Mega kWh in our country.

Huang Xiang, the chief engineer of China Huadian Engineering Co., Ltd., introduces that the area of desertification region in the vast northwest China is over 3.3 million km2, the present electricity consumption of China can all be satisfied in case of planning solar-thermal power generation on 100,000 km2 of these areas. Ma Zhongfang, the vice president of Chinese Society of Engineering Thermophysics, said that from the technical perspective, the gap between China and other countries is not wide and we have made a lot of breakthroughs in research field these years and even took the lead in some aspects. Especially the breakthroughs in the field of key techniques of molten salt heat storage and heat transfer, which ensures China to stand on the commanding heights of the solar-thermal power generation.

Wang Zhifeng, researcher of Institute of Electrical Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences said that China has the advantages and strengths in solar-thermal power generation industry. The domestic solar-thermal power generation industry chain has been initially formed, and the enterprises in our country have entered into the upstream and downstream of industrial chain. A number of enterprises have sprung up in regard to the development of key components, so that all key parts and main equipment for solar-thermal power generation can be basically and fully produced domestically. And the fast growth of the long solar-thermal power generation industry chain accelerated transformation and upgrading of related industries in China. The construction solar-thermal power plants can buffer the excess supply of steel, aluminum, glass and cement and so on, and can promote transformation and upgrading of mineral materials, heat preservation, mechanics and electrics, machinery, electronics and other industries, and can enhance the high-end development of power generation equipment manufacturing industry and the expansion of employment. Yao Zhihao said that this is an opportunity for China’s manufacturing industry. Once this industry is started, a tremendous market worth trillions for equipment manufacturing industry will be formed. Moreover, this might be another high-end equipment manufacturing industry being able to reach out to the world.

A huge market to be tapped

The solar-thermal power generation industry has developed in China for 10 years but it has not made substantial progress yet. Ten years ago, we have already had the first commercial solar-thermal power generation project in China. Back then, the technicians from the headquarter of Solar Millennium AG (the pioneer of solar-thermal power generation industry) together with the representatives of China positively promoted the early-stage preparation of Erdos 50 MWe groove-type solar-thermal power generation. In 2011, this project was invested and constructed by a central enterprise winning the bid. However, because of the unreasonable pricing mode and the obvious deviation from the rational numerical value of bidding value, the project was laid aside for a long time.

However, functional departments such as the National Energy Administration, Price Department of the National Development and Reform Commission, Institute of Electric Power Planning and Design have held two symposia with regard to solar-thermal power generation successively this year, and seminar was held during the symposia to discuss relevant issues on facilitating the construction of solar-thermal power generation demonstration projects. The government has put the development of solar-thermal power generation back to the agenda, which brings much confidence to the developers of solar-thermal power generation.

At present, those five big power enterprises which own a lot of project resources and some private developers like SUPCON are eager to start the business. Some analysis shows that solar-thermal power generation industry is hopeful to enter an boom period after the early demonstrative stage. According to previous planning by the Chinese government, 3 gW solar-thermal power generation is the minimum installation goal for 2020. In case that the investment cost decreases by RMB 30,000 yuan per kW, the scale of solar-thermal power generation market in China will exceed 100 billion yuan in 2020.

By Li Yuyang, Zhang Jianjun