China's new floating solar farm. Photo credit: Sungrow

World's Largest Floating Solar Farm Now Online

Just last week, around the same time President Donald Trump announced the U.S. is pulling out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, China officially switched on the world's largest floating solar farm.

Located near the city of Huainan, the power station can generate 40 megawatts of electricity—or enough to power 15,000 homes, according to operator Sungrow. The panels float on a surface of the water that ranges in depth from four to 10 meters.

The clean power plant is a symbolic turnaround for the Anhui province, "an area that for years saw intensive coal mining," as the South China Morning Post reports. The New York Times also notably points out that the solar facility was even built on top of a lake that was created by the collapse of abandoned coal mines.

"The plant not only makes full use of this area, reducing the demand for lands, but also improves generation due to the cooling effects of the surface," a local government official explained.

Installing solar panels on top of water bodies can be ideal for a number of reasons. For instance, compared to mounted rooftop panels, floating panels are cooled by the water they sit on, boosting power production efficiency. The panels also shade the water itself, and limits the growth of algae.

Perhaps China's new floating solar farm won't hold the title of "world's largest" for long, as other countries are also looking into the technology.

"Delegations from Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and elsewhere have come to study the project while the maker, Sungrow, prepares to license the technology for overseas sale," the Times wrote.

China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is increasingly looking towards renewable sources for its energy needs. The nation recently reconfirmed its efforts to tackle climate change in light of the U.S. exiting the Paris accord.

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