Have you seen this image of a Giant Panda-shaped solar array? The picture has recently gone viral across social media, prompting outlets like Vox and USA Today to even catch on to it. While the image itself isn’t a photograph, it is an artist rendering of a solar array that was recently completed and connected to the electrical grid in Datong Shanxi, China. So, yes, it actually exists!
On June 29th, Panda Green Energy Group Limited announced they had completed construction the panda-shaped solar panel array and connected to the main grid. The system covers a massive 248 acres of land, generating a total of 50 megawatts of electricity. Construction on the project began in November of 2016, and was completed remarkably quickly considering the size and capacity of its power generating abilities.
The actual array looks a little different from the initial artist rendering, with the panda being surrounded by thousands of additional panels for even more power generation.
The panda-bear shaped solar array was created in conjunction with a United Nations Development Program initiative to promote sustainability through clean energy, particularly to youth, who they hope will pursue ambitions as future leaders in the field of clean, renewable energy. The UNDP worked with China Merchants New Energy to promote new energy through several programs, including summer camps and open innovation design contests.
UNDP has already announced they will organize an “open design challenge” for youth, which will encourage them to think about blending design, prototyping, and open-process to build creative and aesthetically pleasing solutions that are not only planet-friendly for energy creation, but look great as well.
Perhaps better-known for its smog-laden skies and world-leading carbon emissions, China has quickly become one of the world’s major players when it comes to renewable energy, particularly in solar panel installations. The low cost of panel manufacturing and extensive investment from outside sources has fostered rapid growth of this technology. Just this year, China surpassed the United States as the world’s leading producer of solar electricity, and continues to grow by as much as 13 percent per year.
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