In August 2009, construction began on China’s first large-scale solar power station. Six years later, solar panels have expanded much deeper into the Gobi Desert, where sunlight and land are abundant.
The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on the Earth Observing-1 satellite acquired these images of the solar farms, located on the outskirts of Dunhuang in northwestern China’s Gansu Province. In 2012 (top image), grids of photovoltaic panels are visible on land that was essentially bare in an image from October 2006. By 2015 (bottom image), panels appear to cover about three times the area since 2012. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the growth of land area covered by panels.
According to China Daily, Gansu Province’s total installed solar capacity in 2014 reached 5.2 gigawatts. Clean Technica reported that China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) had set the goal of increasing the province’s capacity by an additional 0.5 gigawatts in 2015.
Across the entire country, total installed capacity in 2014 was 28.05 gigawatts, according to PV Magazine. Of that, more than 10 gigawatts were newly added capacity in 2014, which led to a 200 percent increase in the kilowatt-hours of electricity produced via solar over the year before. And already in the first quarter of 2015, China is reported to have installed more than 5 gigawatts of new capacity.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.