XINING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- A large semi-desert, covering hundreds of square km in northwest China's Qinghai Province, is turning green thanks to a photovoltaic park.
The semi-desert, located in the county of Gonghe in the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, sits at an altitude of 2,920 meters and attracted one of the largest photovoltaic power generation parks in the country in 2012 because of its strong light radiation and long sunshine duration of eight hours per day.
With an investment of 45 billion yuan (6.29 billion U.S. dollars), the photovoltaic park covers an area of 609 square km and has an installed capacity totaling more than 19 million kW, said Tu Xinpeng, deputy head of the management committee of green industry development parks in the prefecture.
The park has also brought about unexpected ecological improvement to the semi-desert. A vast expanse of solar panels in the park shadow the surface of the semi-desert, which helps lower wind speed and reduce evaporation, increasing the vegetation coverage in the semi-desert.
The maximum wind speed and the evaporation rate in the park have been reduced by about 22 percent and 30 percent respectively, according to the Huanghe Hydropower Development Co., Ltd., which built the park.
Considering fire hazards due to the overgrowth of grass, especially in winter, the park started to employ local herdsmen to pasture thousands of sheep. "The park offers local residents more than 1,000 jobs including herding, reaping pastures and cleaning solar panels," said Huan Xingsheng, deputy director of the maintenance department of the Huanghe photovoltaic equipment maintenance company.
"I can earn 3,000 yuan a month herding for the park, which makes my life a lot easier compared with old days as a peasant," said Zhang Yuhua, a resident in Dongxiang Village in the county.
China's renewable energy generation rose 14 percent in the first half of the year from the same period last year to 887.9 billion kilowatt-hours, according to the National Energy Administration. Of the total, solar photovoltaic power topped 106.7 billion kilowatt-hours, up 30 percent year on year.