World’s Largest Solar Farm: Why Now?

by Parker Head

Tom Phillips’ article on China’s construction of the world’s largest solar panel farm is a useful primer on the various perspectives surrounding the project. China’s grandiose scale of renewable energy initiatives can be read as a strategic move to increase their global soft-power. This is prescient in a world where many global superpowers regard climate change as a serious threat. Phillips acknowledges this upscaling as stratagem when he notes its concurrence with the election of a U.S. President who is a climate-denier. But a single solar farm, no matter the grandeur of its sobriquet, cannot nullify the environmental impact of an entire nation, and issues of curtailment – energy produced that does not reach the grid – undercut the potential reformative power of China’s green energy production. According to a New York Times article also on the new solar farm, 19% of China’s wind energy produced in the first six months of 2016 was curtailed, compared to “negligible” amounts of energy lost in the U.S. [www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/world/asia/china-renewable-energy-investment.html]. And while China’s current enthusiasm for energy reform is a hopeful sign, long-term commitment is necessary for real change. If current initiatives are only political maneuvers made in a global climate that is changing with the succession of a Trump presidency, then the difference Phillips reports between “a climate leader but not the climate leader” will be felt in their, the initiative’s, long-term ineffectiveness. Is a China-as-world-climate-leader that unimaginable in a world of said radical change? Continue reading