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One Man Leads China’s Solar Power Revolution

Huang Ming’s dream of a Solar Valley in China is now a reality. Will China become the heart of cleantech innovation as a result?

“Everything is solar”

Huang Ming calls himself “the number one crazy solar guy in the world.” He is the leading solar innovator and builder in China. Huang Ming has created a model city he calls “Solar Valley” after California’s Silicon Valley. Solar Valley uses photovolataics and thermal energy to produce cheap and clean energy. Its slogan? “Everything is solar.”

Reporter Peter Hadfield went to China to speak to Huang Ming. His report, The Sun King of China, can be heard here:

Solar Valley in China

Former US President Jimmy Carter had this to say about Solar Valley:

“It’s an example of the road the United States did not take, but which China is riding into the future.”

Blue skies, white clouds

Why did Huang Ming take on such a daunting task? In the promotional video for Solar Valley, he describes himself as a father who wants to leave clean air to future generations. He states:

“It’s so that our children’s children’s children will enjoy blue skies and white clouds.”

Huang challenges the idea that reducing our carbon footprint will lead to reducing our standard of living. In one of his rare tweets, he commented that living a “micro-emission life” could be chic.

China is the largest consumer of energy in the world

In 2010, China became the world’s largest consumer of energy in the world. In his report, Hadfield states that per capita, China’s energy usage is higher than Britain’s.

Huang Ming explains that this is because of inefficient usage.

Use the sun’s energy directly, don’t convert it

Solutions that are complex and difficult to install or repair are unlikely to be successful in most parts of the world.

Peter Hadfield explains:

“If solar energy is to spark an energy revolution, Huang believes the innovations must be simple, cheap and efficient. It makes no sense, he says, to convert the sun’s energy into electricity through photovoltaic or PV panels, and then turn that electricity back into heat.”

Solar cookers are one way to reduce emissions.

What’s the lesson for entrepreneurs?

Solar Valley was built as a model. So far, nearby Dezhou is the only city that has instituted the Solar Valley model. Huang Ming states:

“We need solar heating, solar electricity, we need solar desalination, solar charging, solar cooking, so we call that solar everything, everything solar. We built Solar Valley to set up an urban example for the cities to copy.”

What keeps the model from being replicated? Huang searched for an answer.

“What is the barrier to the urban green movement? It’s the developer. They want money.”

Sustainable solutions may be less expensive for consumers, but they are still too complex and expensive for developers who are looking to make the most money from their investment. Even with the will of the Chinese government behind a transition to cleaner energy, the culture of development means that implementation lags behind.

Huang Ming has decided that the best way to go green is to start in rural areas rather than in cities. There is a real need for power and fewer barriers to going solar.

Three solar ideas from ClimateLaunchpad startups in sunny climes

1. Delicious food with a solar cooker

ClimateLaunchpad startups have some simple, yet innovative, products of their own. The Cyprus team Fornelia has developed a solar cooker that cooks even when the sun goes town. We hear the food that comes out of it is delicious.

Read more about Fornelia

2. Let the sunshine in

The startup Skylight In discovered that most of our lighting needs occur during daylight hours. They developed a system to address the need for lighting during the day. It’s a great solution for institutions and businesses that use their lights all day long.

Read more about Skylight In

3. Non-precious metals save precious resources

Solar Burner doesn’t just use the power of the sun for cooking, it uses low-cost, non-precious metals as electrodes. The product is being tested in Bangladesh.

Find more solar-powered innovations at climatelaunchpad.org

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