As part of step one of the governmental »Brightness« program, 3,200 people in 25 Chinese villages received solar plants from SCHOTT, like this one in the Gansu province.
By building solar power plants in sparsely populated provinces in China and other regions of the world, SCHOTT is contributing towards improved living conditions and developing a new market for the future.
The tail-end of the trip means driving down a bumpy sandy road for between one and two hours. This route leads through impressive canyons with steep, nearly dry river valleys to fields at an altitude of 1,300 meters. Here, along the edges of steep canyons in the Gansu Province in the west of China, humble farmers grow wheat and soy beans in loess soil one meter deep.
When the shipment arrives at the village of Mawan, it is accepted enthusiastically. The inhabitants light firecrackers as school children and musicians sing, dance and cry out: “The German-Chinese friendship must last forever!” The warm reception is meant for experts from SCHOTT Solar, the German company that manufactures solar modules and SMA, a company that makes power inverters. Together with Chinese firms, the two companies will be setting up a power supply for roughly 120 people who live here.
An estimated 30 to 50 million people live without electricity in China, particularly in the sparsely populated western provinces. To combat excessive migration into cities, the Chinese central government is investing huge sums in infrastructure. As part of the »Brightness« Program that entered the pilot phase in 1999, 23 million Chinese will gain access to power from renewable energy sources by 2010. Because the settlements are located far apart from each other, the government is relying on independent village power supply systems, so-called mini-grids.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has been supporting this program with subsidies from Germany since 2002. 26.2 million Euros have been earmarked to installing 375 insular solar grids in the villages of the western provinces Xingjiang, Quinghai and Gansu, as well as the southern province Yunnan. The provinces will be contributing the equivalent of 13.2 million Euros on their own.
What a joy: For the first time ever, dwellings that were carved into hard layers of loess receive electrical light. Now, the solar power grid even makes it possible to receive satellite TV.
Solar power plants were then installed in each of the villages. Here, the wiring harnesses that connect residences often hundreds of meters apart were hung up on wooden poles. To start with, the installation crews in the villages of Mawan and Guowan received assistance on how to wire up the various system components from the experts at SCHOTT and SMA. Diesel generators support operations in 18 of the 25 villages. However, they only meet a maximum of ten percent of the total power requirement in order to limit fuel consumption and reduce wear on the engine. Both the generators and the nickel-cadmium batteries come from Chinese companies.
In Gansu, the average solar radiation is higher than in North Africa.
For projects like Gansu, SCHOTT Solar has just the right know-how and was able to leverage around 15 years of experience with off-grid power supplies in Europe, the U.S.A., Africa and Asia. Nevertheless, this maker of solar modules hardly views itself as mainly a systems supplier. ”Our goal is to help local dealers and system integrators become qualified to build their own businesses based on our modules,” explains Martin Gorn, Export Sales Manager for Asia, Africa and Pacific. According to projections, as many as two billion people on Earth still live without electricity. As Martin Gorn puts it, ”Areas without grids are the solar markets of the future.”
SCHOTT has years of experience with remote solar power supplies all over the world. The »Maria Malkia« mission in Tanzania has been receiving power from one of the country’s largest solar plants since June, 2006. Underdeveloped regions of Indonesia (left) have been benefiting from such self-sustained systems for some time.
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