China has signed an agreement with the California company, eSolar, to build a 2,000 megawatt solar thermal power plant in the Yulin Energy Park in the Mongolian desert in northern China.

Four months ago, an Arizona company, First Solar, secured a contract to build an equally large photovoltaic power plant just 80 kilometres south of the new location. Before these announcements, the largest solar electricity projects were a 550 megawatt plant to be built by First Solar in California and a 500 megawatt solar thermal plant being developed for the US Army in the Mojave Desert.

In addition to the planned solar power plants, wind farms with a total capacity of about 6,000 megawatts are planned for Inner Mongolia.

The new project will also include a biomass power plant to generate electricity when the sun is not shining. The biomass plant will use a local shub, the sand willow, which has been planted in the region to fight desertification. The solar and biomass plants will share turbines and other infrastructure, reducing the project’s cost and allowing around-the-clock electricity production.