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Solar energy faces obstacles abroad and at home (2)

(China Daily)

10:49, December 31, 2012

A test project in Zhangbei county of Hebei province led to the installation of a 60-megawatt wind power generator, 40-mW solar power generator and 20-mW energy storage unit. The solar panels generate power in the daytime, when the wind does not blow strongly, and the wind generator works at night.

"The test project in Zhangbei is proving that we can guarantee we have a sustainable and steady power supply with clean energy and generate no greenhouse gases or pollution," Wan said. "We should carry out more projects like this."

By 2015, China will have 21 million kilowatts of solar power generating capacity, up from the current 10 million kW, according to the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) on solar energy, which was published by the National Energy Administration.

"It isn't that there are too many solar power generators in the world, but rather that there are too few," Wan said. "After all, house owners are all willing to install solar panels on their roofs to give them more heat and make things more convenient."

Barriers ahead

Solar devices will not have a large market unless some policy barriers are lifted, experts said.

"Unlike people in Europe, most urban residents in China live in high-rise buildings, which means that they have to share roofs with their upstairs or downstairs neighbors," said Li Ang, senior campaigner for the environmental organization Greenpeace's climate change and energy project.

"So it's difficult for any individual resident to install photovoltaic systems without having the permission of all of the other neighbors under the same roof."

Li said a photovoltaic system costs about 20 yuan per watt, which means users who want to be able to turn on their refrigerators and air conditioners at the same time have to spend 40,000 to 60,000 yuan on a system.

"Unless we can sell the extra electricity produced during the daytime back to the power grid, using photovoltaic systems will not be users' first choice," Li said.

Before October, users had to pay to connect their solar power generator to the power grid, and the cost of one network access point was as high as 420,000 yuan.

And State Grid Corp, China's largest State-owned power utility company, announced on Oct 26 that it will provide free connections for small, independent producers of photovoltaic solar electricity starting on Nov 1. The announcement was taken as being a boon to users of solar energy.

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