China's latest energy megaprojects show coal is really on the way out

Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesA worker carries a flotation device that keep the solar panels above water for a massive floating solar farm in Anhui province, China.

China has some of the worst air pollution in the world. In several cities, thick layers of smog are common, resulting in thousands of deaths every year.

According to multiple studies, the top contributor of air pollution-related deaths in China is coal.

To improve the country’s air quality, the Chinese government vows to spend at least $US360 billion on clean energy projects and create 13 million new renewable energy jobs by 2020.

China’s latest energy megaprojects – two giant solar farms in Anhui, one of which will go online in May – could get the country closer to that goal.

Take a look below.


Due to rising concerns surrounding air pollution-related deaths, China is trying to invest more heavily in renewable energy projects.

Getty ImagesChinese street vendors wait for customers at a local market outside a state owned coal fired power plant near the site of a large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on June 14, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

According to a recent study, pollution from coal caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013 in China.


In late 2017, the country built a massive floating solar farm on top of a former coal mine that had collapsed and flooded.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on June 13, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

Last May, workers turned on the 166,000-panel array, which can generate 40 megawatts of power — enough to accommodate 15,000 homes.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on June 13, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

Source: The South China Morning Post


It’s currently the world’s largest floating solar project and will operate for up to 25 years.

Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on June 13, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

Local energy company Sungrow Power Supply developed the farm on a lake that was once the site of extensive coal mining.

Getty ImagesA Chinese fisherman rides in a boat on land was flooded out more than a decade ago, near the site of a large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on a lake caused by a collapsed and flooded coal mine on June 15, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

After an explosion caused the mine to collapse, a lake formed and flooded it.

Getty ImagesChinese fisherman Wang Duoli, 50, whose family home, background, was flooded out more than a decade ago, paddles in his boat.

As The Guardian notes, building solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs can protect agricultural land and wildlife on the ground.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on June 13, 2017 in Anhui province, China.

Source: The Guardian


The water also cools the solar panels, helping them work more efficiently.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company in Anhui province, China.

Floating solar farms use flotation devices, seen below, which help it stay above water.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company in Anhui province, China.

In December, a unit of China’s Three Gorges Corp. started building an even larger floating solar farm.

Getty Images/People’s Daily

Also in Anhui, this $US151 million plant will produce up to 150 megawatts of power for approximately 94,000 homes.


The new farm is expected to come online by May 2018.


This year marks China’s fourth anniversary since it started a “war on pollution,” and there’s reason to believe the country is making headway.

Getty Images

Looking at over 200 monitors throughout China, a new analysis found that Chinese cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates — often considered the deadliest type of pollution — by 32% on average since 2013.


The city of Xingtai saw the largest pollution decline at 52.2%.

Getty Images

If China sustains these reductions, the average resident could see their lifespan extend by 2.4 years, according to researchers.


China is already one of┬áthe world’s biggest investors in alternative energy sources┬álike solar, wind, and hydropower.

Getty Images

Source: The Guardian


The two new solar farms signal the slow decline of fossil fuels like coal in China and other countries around the world.

Getty ImagesA large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Companya.

In 2015, Sweden started to phase out its fossil fuel usage and bolster investment in solar, wind, smart grids, and cleaner transport. That same year, Nicaragua pledged to increase its share of renewable energy from 53% to 90% by 2020.


China is one of the biggest countries to make a significant move away from coal. Last year, the country cancelled 104 new coal plants that were in development across 13 provinces.

Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesStreet vendors and customers gather at a market near the coal plant and solar project in Anhui province, China.

Although the US relies less on fossil fuels in 2018 than it did a decade ago, President Donald Trump has promised to boost the country’s struggling coal industry.

Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images

In mid-January, Trump announced that the US will administer a 30% tariff on imported solar panels, which will fall to about 15% over a period of four years. Part of his “America First” platform, the tariff could hurt the solar industry in the US.


Today, coal still accounts for over 40% of the world’s electricity production. But within 10 years, energy experts forecast that coal will peak and then fall.

Getty ImagesA Chinese state owned coal fired power plant is seen in Huainan, Anhui province, China.

Sources: IEAand Bloomberg


At the same time, cleaner sources, like solar and wind, will become cheap enough to surpass it.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.