Giant China project leads the rise of renewable mega-hubs

China, already a global leader in renewable energy, is seeking to raise the bar dramatically on wind and solar capacity with a massive new project in the desert.

The initiative, which is at least twice the size of the next-largest planned global development, comes as the nation attempts to quickly ramp up the pace of its transition to carbon neutrality ahead of global climate talks.

As China leads the way in adopting wind and solar power, other countries are striving to keep pace. Australia has several large projects planned, while South Korea and Oman are also emerging as strong players. Here are some of the largest renewable projects in the global pipeline.

China Desert Project

Location: likely in western China
Initial capacity: 100 gigawatts of wind and solar
Possible total capacity: as much as 400GW, according to reports

The first phase would create capacity that’s more than the total currently installed in India, according to BloombergNEF, and it would be able to generate four times as much power as the Three Gorges Dam. While details are scant, construction has already begun, President Xi Jinping said Tuesday. A likely location is western China, and previous unconfirmed reports said half of the total capacity would be constructed by 2025.

Western Green Energy Hub

Location: Western Australia
Planned total capacity: up to 50GW of hybrid wind and solar

Announced in July, the proposed hub, which could cost as much as A$100 billion ($73 billion), would cover an area half the size of Belgium. To be built in phases, the first production is slated for the beginning of the next decade. The project would produce as much as 3.5 million tons of green hydrogen or 20 million tons of green ammonia each year for domestic use and export.

Baihetan Hydropower Station

Location: Jinsha River, an upper stretch of the Yangtze in Southwest China
Planned total capacity: 16GW of hydro

Already partly in operation, the project is set to be commissioned at full capacity by July 2022, becoming the second-largest hydropower station in the world, second only to Three Gorges Dam, according to Chinese state media. The project will send clean electricity from southwestern China to industrial provinces on the east coast.

Asian Renewable Energy Hub

Location: Western Australia
First phase: 15GW of wind and solar
Planned total capacity: 26GW

The AREH, which would use electricity from wind and solar plants stretched across thousands of miles, plans to use much of the energy to produce green hydrogen for domestic use and export. But the project, which targeted the first exports by 2028, has run up against major headwinds after the Australian government rejected the proposals in June citing worries about the environmental impact. The consortium behind AREH said it’s working to engage with the government on those concerns.

South Korea Offshore Wind Project

Location: Southern coast of Korean peninsula
Planned total capacity: 8.2GW of offshore wind

Announced by South Korean President Moon Jae-In in February, the project is worth 48.5 trillion won ($41 billion) and will be built in phases over the next decade. It is set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm once commissioned. The project is part of President Moon’s “Green New Deal” to help the country reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Green Energy Oman

Location: Oman
Planned total capacity: 25GW of wind and solar

An international consortium including Oman’s government-owned petroleum investment company OQ and InterContinental Energy launched the project in May to produce 25GW of solar and wind energy and “produce millions of tons” of green hydrogen annually. The group said the site’s strategic location between Europe and Asia would position it to offer a reliable supply of green fuels globally at a competitive price.

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