A recent story in the news is about a solar plant recently completed in China that was designed in the shape of a panda. However, the images initially circulated were all artists concepts and not photos of the actual plant. Eventually Snopes was able to obtain an actual photo of the plant and we decided to try and find it in Google Earth. We knew the solar plant was somewhere in the vicinity of Datong, Shanxi, China, and we found a large number of solar plants in the region, but could not find the panda. Then we found this article that features a screen shot from Google Earth and once we knew what to look for, we found it quite quickly near a solar plant we had already identified.
The panda solar plant as seen in Google Earth in an image dated May 18th, 2017. There are actually two pandas.
As we discovered when looking at floating solar, solar plants are springing up almost everywhere you look, especially in China. The plants we found in the Datong region were all built in the last few years. According to Wikipedia, China is roughly doubling its installed solar power every year. Exponential trends can’t continue forever, but it does make us wonder what the landscape will look like in ten years. It won’t be long before there is stiff competition for land between solar and agriculture – which is one reason why floating solar is becoming a popular solution. From the plants we found, mountain tops and southern facing slopes seem to be the most popular sites at present in the Datong region.
Solar plants around Datong, Shanxi, China.
Some plants like the one below, appear to have been built on dry river beds. This is presumably to avoid competition with agriculture, but it does raise the question of whether or not they will get washed away in the large rain storm.
Before and After showing how the solar plant is built in a dried out riverbed.
To find the pandas and other nearby solar plants in Google Earth, download this KML file.