While environment-related headlines regarding China often focus on the devastating smog that coats major cities in the nation, there’s reason for optimism where their energy-future is concerned. The IEA expects that China will surpass the EU, US and Japan in renewable energy projects by 2035. And China has just broken ground on their most iconic renewable energy project yet; their first large-scale solar farm, which will provide power for a whopping one million homes and slash coal usage by 4.26 million tons every year.

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The concentrating solar thermal project (CSP), dubbed Delingha, is located in on 6,300 acres of vacant land in the Qinghai province in northwest China. When complete Delingha will feature six towers that can each generate 135 megawatts, with 3.5 hours of thermal energy storage. This will be enough to provide power to one million households in the Qinghai province year-round, and will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 million tons over the project’s life.

Related: The world’s largest solar thermal plant has been switched on for the first time

The first stage of construction will involve the installation of two of the 135 megawatt towers, which will provide power to 452,000 homes. While there is a handful of other CSP projects in China, Delingha will be the first commercially operated facility, and will lead the way for an anticipated 3 GW of CSP projects to be constructed in the country by 2020.

For the construction of Delingha, the State Grid Corporation, Shanghai Electric Group, and Qinghai Huanghe Hydropower Development Co., have some serious weight behind them. Oakland-based BrightSource Energy is partnering on the project, hot on the heels of their construction of the world’s largest CSP plant, Ivanpah, in California’s Mojave Desert. The project is one of seven U.S.-China clean energy initiatives announced by President Obama under the U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership (USCREP) in 2009. Delingha is set to go online in 2017, and we can expect to see more such projects following in the near future.

ViaScience Alert