Construction began on Wednesday for a major concentrating solar thermal power plant in northwest Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region as part of China’s efforts to accelerate the development of renewable energy.
The Hanas New Energy Group, based in Yinchuan, Ningxia, plans to invest 2.25 billion yuan (354 million U.S. dollars) to build a solar farm in Yanchi county with a goal of 92.5 megawatts. Set for completion in October 2013, the project represents Asia’s first integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC) station.
"The Yanchi farm will set a model for the commercial operation of ISCC plants in China," said Hanas’ president Ma Fuqiang. In early March, China announced goals of building 235 million kilowatts of power generation capacity from clean energy over the next five years in an effort to trim the country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Five million kilowatts of solar power capacity is expected to be created by 2015 with projects planned in remote regions like Ningxia, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet.
Yet, most proposed large-scale solar projects use concentrating solar thermal power technology only, which deploys mirrors to heat liquid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine.
An ISCC plant, however, combines a solar field with a gas fired turbine to increase the efficiency of steamed turbine electricity generators by 25 percent, compared to a conventional solar farm, whose operation relies heavily on weather conditions, Ma said.
ISSC plants have been operated successfully in countries like Egypt and the United States, while more are being constructed in Algeria and Morocco, and several plants are on the drawing board in Mexico, India and Iran.
Ningxia has a prominent advantage in its coal, solar energy and wind power resources. As the largest urban natural gas producer and centralized heat supplier of the region, Hanas has developed wind and solar farms as its core business since 2000.