Most of the Earth's surface area is covered in water, so it makes sense to utilize that area to collect energy. Offshore wind turbines are already operating in both shallow and deep seas around the world, but so far a similar concept has not been extensively applied to solar energy collection.
That could soon change, however, with the recent unveiling of the world's largest floating solar farm in China's central Anhui province, reports Phys.org. The impressive array, which consists of 160,000 panels, is buoyant upon a lake that emerged after the collapse of a coal mine. It's an appropriate symbol for China's changing energy policies; the nation is projected to get 20 percent of its power consumption from low-emission energy, including nuclear, by 2030.
It also comes at an ominous time, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. China already leads the world in clean energy investment, and now it has the chance to take up the top leadership position in the fight against climate change. At least, it's an opportunity that China has been given an open door to seize.
"The U.S.'s withdrawal from the Paris agreement offers China an unprecedented opportunity to take the lead in climate change," said energy expert Frank Yu of Wood Mackenzie, a global energy, chemicals, renewables, metals and mining research and consultancy group.
China has plenty of its own internal motivations for stepping up on clean energy, too. Endemic air pollution is a major health concern in the country, and it has now surpassed the U.S. as the world's top carbon emitter. The financial incentives are what might really be driving the transition, however. According to Helen Clarkson, president of the Climate Group, China "is already reaping the economic benefits" of clean energy.
Floating solar farms are just part of a growing portfolio of clean tech solutions for the climate crisis. The onus might now fall on individual U.S. states and cities to step up their investments in these technologies if the U.S. wants to keep pace with China.
You can learn more about the project in the video below: