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Utility-scale solar power plants are not known for their visual appeal, but a company in China wants to change that. By building their panda bear shaped solar power grid, Panda Green Energy is hoping to change the public image of solar power plants, literally. As of the writing of this article, the snuggly, and lovable field of photovoltaic solar cells has just finished its first phase of production.

The Panda Power Plant

The Shanxi province-based plant will have a final capacity of 100-megawatts, although the recently completed first phase is currently only delivering half of that. That phase is now undergoing the crucial step of testing after being connected to the grid. If everything checks out, the Panda Power Plant will enter the next phase of production.

A Panda Powered Tomorrow

Panda Green Energy doesn’t want to stop with just the one power plant though. They plan on building several more panda shaped plants across China over the next five years. The next plant is set for Datong. China won’t be the only host to Panda Panels. The company has already started talks for expansion into The Philipines, Fiji, and Thailand as well.

According to the company, “A 100MW Panda Power Plant can provide 3.2 billion kWh of green electricity in 25 years, equivalent to saving 1.056 million tons of coal, or reduce 2.74 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The Panda Power Plant was first proposed by the company in May of 2016. In September of that year, Panda Green Energy entered into a contract with the United Nations Development Program. This year, the power plant was officially brought on board as part of the Chinese government’s “belt and road” initiative. The initiative is an effort by the Chinese government to fund billions of dollars worth of infrastructure upgrades.

China is already a world leader in solar panel installation. At the end of 2016, a full one-quarter of all solar panels in the world were located in China. A large part of that comes from recent efforts in the country to build solar power plants. In 2016, 46% of all new solar power plants built around the world were in China.

Panda Green Energy

Panda Green Energy, originally “United Photovoltaics Group” is now involved in a number of initiatives designed to help promote the use of solar energy to Chinese children. Among these initiatives is a special summer camp for children that takes place at the Panda Power Plant.

More Animal Shaped Solar Power

Believe it or not, the panda shaped plant from Panda Green Energy isn’t the first animal shaped solar power plant. Well, at least not if you count cartoon animals. Duke Energy constructed a 5-megawatt solar power plant in the shape of Mickey Mouse near Epcot center. That plant provides an alternative power plant for Walt Disney World Resort and many other customers.

The Mickey Mouse shaped plant covers 22 acres and is the equivalent of 1,000 home rooftop solar panel systems. For comparison, the Panda Power Plant takes up a whopping 248 acres.

Although the Mickey plant pales in size to the Panda plant, its construction did help make 2016 a record year for construction of solar PV in the United States. Those constructions helped the U.S. become the second leading country in the world for solar panels (2nd only to China). With 5 more pandas on the way, it seems like they will keep the lead for the near future.

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