BEIJING  - A Chinese state-owned company said on Monday it had connected the world's biggest solar plant to the grid in northwestern Xinjiang.

The 3.5-gigawatt (GW), 32,947-acre solar farm, in a desert area of the capital Urumqi, came online on Monday, a notice on the state asset regulator's website said, citing the Power Construction Corp of China.

The facility will generate about 6.09 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year. That would be enough to power the country of Papua New Guinea for a year.

The two largest operational solar facilities previously were also in western China - Longyuan Power Group's Ningxia Tenggeli desert solar project and China Lüfa Qinghai New Energy's Golmud Wutumeiren solar complex, both with a capacity of 3GW, according to the Global Energy Monitor's solar power tracker.

Sparsely populated Xinjiang, rich in solar and wind resources, has become a hub for massive renewable energy bases that send much of their power across long distances to China's densely populated eastern seaboard.

(Reporting by Colleen Howe; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)