Community Solar

China’s Floating Solar Covers the Sins of its Coal…

According to a July 28th, 2016 Sixth Tone article, Huainan Mining Industry Co. operates one of the largest coal mines in Asia in the same area a 40MW floating solar array was recently installed. As the Indy100 article states, a local official stated “The [floating solar] plant not only makes full use of this area, reducing the demand for lands – but also improves generation due to the cooling effects of the surface”.

Images of a “flooded coal mining town” might be reminiscent of the United States hydroelectric dam projects, built by the Corp of Engineers as mandated by the Flood Control Act of 1944, to manage flood water and provide electricity. In the United States, coal miners must allocate funds for land reclamation. But according to the article, critics state that China’s similar law is vaguely worded and hardly ever enforced.

Here are some facts:

  • Extracting 5 million tons of coal a year has caused the rural villages to sink
  • The “lake” comes from underground water disturbed by mining activity
  • 20,000 persons have lost their homes,
  • About 15% of Huainan City’s 2+ million residents have foundation problems associated with the coal mine
  • Chinese coal mining profits are down 90% since 2011
  • The impacted rural farming families have not received adequate compensation to maintain their previous quality of life
  • The World Bank paid $100 million of $170 million budgeted towards reclamation of the land
  • The land is being developed into fish farms, with no mention of any groundwater contamination

This is not to say that floating solar isn’t a good solution for the farming real estate that has been utterly destroyed by the Chinese coal industry and its government’s lack of environmental policy enforcement. Floating solar might seem odd to some, but it offers many water reservoir treatment benefits in addition to the generation of clean energy.

But the costs are borne by the public, not the coal companies responsible for the damage.