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Fresh efforts to tap solar energy
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-24 08:43

China is stepping up efforts to develop its solar energy industry, echoing the government's promise to make renewable energy resources account for 10 per cent of China's energy consumption by 2020.

Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, made the pledge at the International Conference for Renewable Energies held in Germany in July.

China is expected to boast a production capacity of 51 million square metres of solar heat panels by the end of the year, with a production value exceeding 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion). The figure will rank China first worldwide in solar heat panel production, Li Zhongming, an analyst from the National Engineering Research Centre for Renewable Energy, told China Daily.

China's solar energy power generation is expected to reach 60 megawatts by the year end, Li said.

The world's solar energy power generation industry has witnessed robust growth in recent years, industry sources said.

The solar energy power generation industry maintained an average 28.6 per cent growth rate over the past ten years on the international scale, and the figure rose to 36.8 per cent in the past five years, statistics from the Beijing Solar Energy Research Institute show.

Currently, China is framing strategic plans for renewable energy development and utilization for the period before 2020, bringing the development and utilization of renewable energy into State strategies, said Zhang Guobao.

China's first law on renewable energy utilization will be first read by the National People's Congress on December 25, and is expected to debut in the second half of 2005 at the earliest, after final approval from the State Council, according to Ma Shenghong, a professor from the China Academy of Sciences.

According to the drafted law, residents will receive extra allowance for using renewable energies. And power generation units are supposed to use renewable energies for a certain amount of its power generation, Wang Wenjing, deputy director of Beijing Solar Energy Research Institute told China Daily.

Building solar energy power plants in desert areas and places lacking conventional energies represents the preferred option for meeting electric power shortfalls, Wang said.

China, currently, is planning to construct a 8 megawatt solar energy power plant in Dunhuang, western China's Gansu Province, Wang said.

According to CAS's Ma Shenghong, who is also proposing the project, an initiative feasibility study has been completed and the project has been submitted to the NDRC for final approval.

"If all goes as expected, the 8 megawatt solar energy power plant will go into normal operation by the end of next year," Ma said.

In line with the country's west development strategy, the country has invested 2 billion yuan (US$241 million) in building solar energy power plants in western China's rural towns, with a total power generation capacity of 18 megawatts, Ma said.

"The project has benefited people in those areas, some of whom have otherwise never seen electric bulbs in their entire life," Ma said.

In addition, the NDRC is brainstorming another project for constructing solar energy power plants in western China's over 30,000 rural villages, according to official sources.

If this project is completed, Ma said, China will be able to basically solve the power shortage problems in China's western regions.

Li Zhongming from the National Engineering Research Centre for Renewable Energy said the coming events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Shanghai Expo 2010 and the 2007 World Conference on Solar Energy in Beijing, will play an important role in promoting China's solar energy industry development.

"China will install two to three megawatt solar energy power generation machines in the sports facilities of the Beijing 2008 Olympics," Li said.

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