LHASA - Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region is poised to become the country's leading solar power generation base with 10 more photovoltaic power plants to be completed within this year.
The new plants, with a total investment of 2 billion yuan ($308 million) and a combined 100-megawatt capacity, will take advantage of Tibet's ample solar energy resources to ease the plateau region's power shortages, said Wang Haijiang, a noted researcher on Tibet's energy development.
Construction of most of the new plants has begun, including a 30-megawatt solar photovoltaic generation plant in Xigaze Prefecture, about 3 km northwest of Tibet's second largest city Xigaze.
Upon its completion this month, the plant will generate up to 20.23 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, said Wang.
Meanwhile, a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic generation plant is being built in Yangbajing, a town 90 km northwest of the regional capital Lhasa, with a designed power generation capacity of 430 million kWh during its 25-year life span.
Photovoltaic is a method of generating electric power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity by using semiconductors.
Tibet has abundant solar energy resources, with an average 3,000 hours of solar radiation annually, or about 6,000 to 8,000 megajoules per square meter.
Over the past 60 years, Tibet has stepped up exploitation of its clean energy resources hoping to protect the plateau ecology while seeking economic growth, said Wang.
It began using solar energy in the 1980s.
Today, the region's installed 9-megawatt solar photovoltaic generation system accounts for 13 percent of China's total.
Solar energy is now widely used by Tibetan families: with nearly 400,000 solar stoves installed in Tibetan kitchens, 10,000 square meters of homes being heated by solar energy and 200,000 households relying on solar energy for lighting.
Housewife Chogyal in Zada County of Ngari Prefecture said her family relied on solar energy for powering most of the household's appliances and electric facilities. "On top of it, we don't have to pay a cent for (solar generated) electricity."
Tibet's regional government estimated solar power helped save at least 162,800 tons of coal equivalent last year.
China's total domestic demand for solar photovoltaic energy was around 500,000 kilowatts a year, according to the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country's top energy planner.
China plans to expand the solar PV energy market gradually: to about 5 million kilowatts installation capacity in 2015 and 20 million kilowatts in 2020, according to the NEA.