- China is streamlining its land use policy to make space for large scale solar PV installations
- It wants desert areas and land that cannot be restored from oilfields, gas fields and coal mining to be used for the purpose
- Agricultural land, grassland, farmland and forest areas are out of bounds for solar PV projects
China is standardizing the management of project land use to ensure the availability of unused land and desert regions for the construction of large-scale solar PV projects in the country while leaving out cultivated land for the purpose.
In a notice issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the National Energy Administration (NEA), local administrations have been instructed to include large scale PV projects in the list of key construction projects in the overall land and space planning of cities, counties, towns.
Deserts like Gobi Desert and land reserved as oil fields, gas fields and coal mining areas that cannot be reused or restored should be used for solar PV projects. Such installations should be avoided on cultivated land and land that’s protected for historical, ecological or cultural significance.
New solar projects or the expansion of existing ones will not be allowed on farmland, grassland, forest lands and key state-owned forest areas in Northeast Inner Mongolia.
In case agricultural land is sought for such projects, it should be used in a way to avoid any impact on ecology and agricultural production. No existing vegetation will be allowed to be removed to install a solar power plant. Installations should not be more than 1 meter higher than the height of the shrubs in case it uses shrub land. There should also be a reasonable distance between the north and south of each row. In other words, solar systems on agricultural land must be true agri-PV installations.
Land used for supporting facilities of PV power generation should be managed as construction land with requisite approvals to be sought from relevant authorities.
China is already using desert areas for large-scale projects – and has already plans for many more. There are plans in the Gobi Desert, for example, to develop very large scale solar and wind energy projects as it seeks to report 1.2 TW solar and wind power capacity by 2030 (see 200 GW RE Before 2025 In China’s Deserts).
Indeed, the solar market is growing very fast in China with record installations taking place in January and February 2023, and the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) expecting the country to install between 95 GW to 120 GW new PV capacity this year (see China Installed Over 20 GW New Solar In First 2 Months Of 2023).