Reuters has a story here about widespread use of solar thermal heating systems in China. It quotes an academic in Beijing who points out that at least 30 million Chinese households have a solar thermal system and last year 4 of every 5 systems sold in the world were in China. “We are at 15 to 20 per cent annual growth and I don’t see that slowing down,” said the academic.
UPDATE: The San Jose Mercury News also wrote about solar thermal in China.
Meanwhile, the solar race continues. China Daily reports on plans for a massive solar farm in North China. Inner Mongolia Ruyi Industry Co. Ltd. is reportedly working with Germany-based Solar Millennium AG on a project that would ultimately see a 1,000-megawatt solar-thermal farm that would use the heat it produces to create steam for power production. Construction could begin before the end of the year, with the initial phase being 50 megawatts at a cost of about $163 million (U.S.). The rest would be completed through to 2020 at a cost of $2.5 billion.
If you’ve ever had any doubts about how sincere China is with its approach to renewables, alternative energy and conservation, I strongly advise you to read this working paper from Christian Constantin, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia’s international relations institute (Thanks to Mike Brown, co-founder and executive chairman of Chrysalix Energy, for pointing it out to me). Constantin’s thesis is that the current generation of Chinese leaders, as of 2003, have moved away from the state-centric, oil-focused approach to energy security and now view oil as part of a much larger energy picture where conservation, efficiency and renewables play a much larger, even dominant role. China, he argues, is taking this approach to both leapfrog other developed countries, such as the United States, and take a moral high ground in the international community. But perhaps most important, it realizes at has no choice if it wishes to grow its economy and reach a western-world standard of living without completely destroying its environment and seriously impacting the long-term health of its population. Of course, it helps to be a state-run society…