Construction has begun on China’s first large-scale commercial solar plant, designed to eventually supply electricity for approximately one million households in Qinghai province. It’s a concentrating solar power system, which uses a vast array of mirrors spread across 6,300 acres in the Gobi desert to send thermal energy into a small, focused area.

The plant is being jointly developed by BrightSource Energy, based in Oakland, California, and Shanghai Electric Group. The project’s first phase, involving two 135 megawatt solar towers – enough energy for about half a million homes, according to BrightSource (pdf). There will eventually be six towers.

BrightSource is also a partner in the world’s largest CSP plant, in California’s Mojave desert, which can generate up to 392 megawatts.

NASA recently published satellite images of the solar facility’s construction in the Gobi:

Solar farms in China in May 2015.(NASA)

The state of solar construction in the same area in 2012.(NASA)

China added 5 gigawatts of solar power to its grids in the first quarter of 2015 alone, and hopes to have connected a total of 17.8 gigawatts by the end of the year. That would be more than twice as much as the US added to its grid in 2014. Policymakers in Beijing want 20% of the country’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030.

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