North Korea plans 2.5 GW solar plant with Chinese help

China will build the huge solar park at its own cost for its energy-hungry neighbor in exchange for access to rare earths. The project was announced by the Association of China Rare Earth Industry.

The Chinese government is planning to build a $2.5 billion solar plant near Pyongyang, in North Korea, according to the Association of China Rare Earth Industry.

In an announcement published on its website yesterday, the Chinese trade body said the huge solar park is expected to have an installed capacity of 2.5 GW and will help address electricity shortages in North Korea.

In exchange for the project, China will acquire mining rights for a rare earth mine in the northern part of Pyongyang province, the association added, without providing further details.

North Korea, which relies on coal and hydropower, is turning to renewables to reduce chronic energy shortages and attempt to revive its UN sanction-affected economy.

Solar to protect the regime

In August, South Korean news service NK Economy revealed North Korean state agencies were beginning to use solar to power operations. And in June, the same news wire reported a 1 MW solar project was being planned in North Pyongang province as part of a larger “electricity base” facility also including wind turbines in the Sinuiju area.

Blackouts are frequent in secretive North Korea and many households are now powered by smuggled solar panels which began flooding into the country in recent years. “Solar panels are visible just about everywhere, from urban balconies to rural farm buildings and military installations,” reported the phys.org popular science website in February.

In June, according to Reuters, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called on his people to make wider use of renewables as part of his drive for national self-sufficiency.

According to the latest statistics published by the International Renewable Energy Agency, North Korea had only 11 MW of installed PV capacity at the end of last year, as part of a renewables generation fleet, including hydropower, of 4.7 GW. Those figures, however, are unlikely to reflect the generation capacity of smuggled PV panels.

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