Rizhao City, which means City of Sunshine in Chinese, has a unique dedication to the sun. In Rizhao, 99% of households in the central districts use solar water heaters, and most traffic signals, street and park lights are powered by photovoltaic solar cells. In the suburbs and villages, more than 30% of households use solar water heaters, and over 6,000 households have solar cooking facilities. Also, more than 60,000 greenhouses are heated by solar panels, reducing overhead costs for farmers in nearby areas.
The fact that Rizhao is a small, ordinary Chinese city with per capita incomes even lower than in most other cities in the region makes the story even more remarkable. The achievement was the result of an unusual convergence of three key factors: a government policy that encourages solar energy use and financially supports research and development, local solar panel industries that seized the opportunity and improved their products, and the strong political will of the city’s leadership to adopt it.
As is the case in industrial countries that promote solar power, the Shandong provincial government provided subsidies. Instead of funding the end users, however, the government funded the research and development activities of the solar water heater industry.
Mayor Li Zhaoqian explained: “It is not realistic to subsidize end users as we don’t have sufficient financial capacity.” Instead, the provincial government invested in the industry to achieve technological breakthroughs, which increased efficiency and lowered the unit cost.
The cost of a solar water heater was brought down to the same level as an electric one: about $190, which is about 4-5 percent of the annual income of an average household in town and about 8-10 percent of a rural household’s income. Also, the panels could be simply attached to the exterior of a building. Using a solar water heater for 15 years costs about 15,000 Yuan less than running a conventional electric heater, which equates to saving $120 per year.
Full story via: Renewable Energy Access