In late June, Panda Green Energy Group Limited connected the first-ever panda bear-shaped solar plant to the grid. The plant, which is currently in its testing phase, is only the beginning.

“This is the starting point of the Panda Green Energy’s global layout on Panda Power Plant project, which is of great significance to the global green energy application, green concept communication, and energy transformation,” a press release says.

Based on an artist’s rendering of the plant (Figure 1), the full project will eventually feature two panda bears, sitting in a massive field of solar panels. This first phase of the project has a capacity of 50 MW. When completed, the 100-MW project will cover roughly 1,500 acres in Datong.

Fig 5_Panda solar plant_cmyk
1. Panda power. China’s Panda Green Energy Group has connected to the grid the world’s first-ever panda-shaped solar power plant. The plant, shown here in an artist’s rendering, was created using monocrystalline silicon solar cells for the black parts and thin-film solar cells for the white parts. Courtesy: Panda Green Energy Group Limited

The project was announced in May 2016 by China Merchants New Energy (CMNE), Panda Green Energy’s largest shareholder. The image of the panda, with its black and white pattern, was developed using two different kinds of solar cells.

“The black part will be composed of monocrystalline silicon solar cells, of which the supplier is China Xi’an Longji Silicon Materials Co., Ltd.; and the white part will be composed of the thin film solar cell, of which the supplier is U.S. solar integrated solutions manufacturer First Solar,” the May 25, 2016, announcement says.

The company hopes the design of the plant will increase interest in the photovoltaic industry. “The Solar Power Plant built in the appearance of panda can inspire teenagers to pay more attention to solar industry and learn about photovoltaic, so that teenagers over the world might be more interested to carry out the career for new energy and environmental business,” Alan Li, CEO of CMNE, said in the release.

Li also suggested the panda-shaped power plant model may become a trend. “I believe this project will become a scenic spot. In the future, we will build panda power plants all around the world and hope more and more countries will work together to convert our good expectations into concrete results, thus both affluent and poor areas will facilitate the use of green power,” he said.

In fact, another panda solar plant is already in the works. In a May 17, 2017, press release CMNE announced plans to build another panda plant in Fiji. According to the company’s projects pipeline, a panda plant is also planned for the Philippines.

The additional panda plants are part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” an effort to “promote orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets by enhancing connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas,” according to state-owned news agency Xinhua.

The panda plants are also supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Working with UNDP Panda Green Energy will host summer camps at the Panda Solar Farm. The first camp is scheduled in August 2017.

Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.