Asian Development Bank to fund solar project in China



The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is making its first foray into the solar power sector in the People's Republic of China (PRC) through a technical assistance project designed to pave the way for large-scale concentrated solar thermal (CST) power use in the country.

ADB is extending a $1 million grant that will be used to implement a 1.5 megawatt (MW) CST pilot project and to carry out the prefeasibility assessment of a 50 MW CST power demonstration project in Gansu province in western PRC. The technical assistance supports the government's plan to install Asia's first MW-scale CST pilot project and accelerate large-scale solar power development in the country.

CST power, which provides electricity by generating heat to operate a steam turbine that drives a generator, has advantages over solar photovoltaic panels as the power produced is available continuously and at a more competitive price. However, there is currently a lack of knowledge and expertise on the most appropriate CST power technology for PRC.

'Understanding new technologies through MW-scale pilot projects is crucial to building up knowledge and capacity that may lead to the development of large-scale plants,' said Ashok Bhargava, Principal Energy Specialist in ADB's East Asia Department.

ADB's grant comes from its Climate Change Fund - established in 2008 to invest in projects that address the causes and consequences of climate change - while the Government of the PRC will provide $1.7 million, for a total technical assistance cost of $2.7 million.

The China Huadian Engineering Company Ltd. is the executing agency for the project, which will be implemented over 13 months, with an expected completion date of March 2011.

China produces over 30% of the world's solar photovoltaics (PV), and solar PV is starting to increase its share in China's energy portfolio, with government support, falling solar power generation cost and rising demand as the main drivers for the uptake.

The PRC has been making rapid progress in developing renewable energy sources to help reduce its heavy reliance on coal, with wind power generation posting significant growth. However, development in the solar power sector has been more limited.

The technical assistance will also develop a 'road map' for CST demonstration projects in Gansu province, and provide information to other provinces on lessons learned and the challenges facing CST power development.

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