U.S. Firm First Solar Plans to Build World’s Largest Solar Plant – in China


The BBC recently reported good news for the typically strained environmental relations between the U.S. and China. Although the two countries are among the world’s top polluters, and although each seems to expect concessions the other isn’t willing to give (in terms of greenhouse gas legislation), a U.S. energy firm and China recently signed a huge solar power deal. Could the deal signal the turning over of a new leaf in the countries’ approaches to climate change?

U.S. energy group First Solar signed a preliminary deal (a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government) by which First Solar would build the world’s biggest solar plant (two gigawatts) in Inner Mongolia’s Ordos City. The project would operate under a feed-in tariff, which would ensure the price (for the long term) of solar power produced by the plant. If the deal is approved, construction will begin in June 2010. The project’s expected completion date is 2019.

The plant could power up to three million Chinese homes.

The project is in line with one of China’s greater environmental goals: meeting ambitious renewable energy targets by expanding renewable energy usage. For Ordos, the deal could signal to Chinese investors that they may invest confidently in solar technology. For First Solar, the project sets a precedent for the mass-scale deployment of solar power worldwide.

What do you think: is the First Solar deal significant in a bigger-picture analysis of U.S.-China relations regarding climate change, or is it just an isolated incident?

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.