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Asia's Top Solar Base Begins Operations

Asia's largest production base for photovoltaics, a type of solar energy, began production on Friday, bringing Qu Geping, one of the world's leading environmental scientists, a step closer to his dream of seeing China's streets lit with clean energy.

The launch come as the country's top legislature is planning to draft a special law to promote the use of clean energy, especially more technically sophisticated solar energy.

"Our modest goal is to have the amount of clean energy used in the country double by the year 2020," said Qu, former director of the Subcommittee of Environment and Resources under the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and an advocate of clean energy policies.

The Yingli production base for photovoltaics took eight years to complete. Located in Baoding in North China's Hebei Province, Yingli has a projected annual production capacity of 50 megawatts and could rank among the world's top 10 photovoltaic producers.

The National Development and Reform Commission aims to have this national demonstration project help promote the commercial utilization of solar energy in the country.

Although 50 megawatts is but a drop in the bucket in light of the huge gap between the country's supply and demand in electricity, the establishment of the base is "one major score" on the country's road to exploring its rich solar energy resources, said Zhao Yuwen, vice-president of the China Solar Energy Society.

"Yingli has changed forever the situation where almost all of our photovoltaic cells/modules had to be imported," he said.

According to Qu, it is already an agreement among scholars and officials that solar energy, along with other forms of clean energy from sources like the wind and ocean tides, is important to help further fuel China's fast growing economy and to relieve related environmental problems.

Burning coal is still the way China produces most of its electricity. The latest official statistics indicate the country has burned 1.6 billion tons of coal for electricity this year.

In view of this year's large-scale electricity shortages in some economically advanced regions, such as East China's Zhejiang Province, the amount of burnt coal is expected to increase further.

"Just imagine the heavy burden burning that huge amount of coal places on the environment," said Qu.

(China Daily December 22, 2003)

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