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April 17, 2014

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Canadian lights up the future in city with solar-powered energy

A 42-YEAR-OLD Canadian installed a grid-connected solar power generating system on the roof of a building that dates back to the 1930s.

The small power station has six solar panels with four connected directly to the Shanghai electric grid. The Canadian, Jason Inch, has installed it on the roof of his office at Yongjia Road in Xuhui District earlier this month.

The solar-powered system offsets the energy use significantly, including supporting the 70-plus 10-watt LED bulbs in the six-storey house, Inch said.

On sunny days, it can generate nearly 1 kilowatt per hour of electricity and the surplus power is sold to the grid.

During cloudy days, it drops to 0.1 kilowatt/hour and will need electricity from the grid, thus balancing each other well, he said.

As per the existing rules, Inch can earn 0.4 yuan by selling 1 kilowatt/hour of electricity and another 0.3 yuan as government allowance.

It cost Inch nearly 20,000 yuan (US$3,214) for design and installation, and it would likely take at least 10 years to get any returns on it, said Andrea Liu, the operation manager of Inch’s company, LOHAUS, a social enterprise that promotes a lifestyle of health and urban sustainability. However, Inch said money was not a criteria for him.

“I want to show that we can do it,” he said, adding that his office “demonstrates the possibility” that solar energy can be made accessible to every household, even those living in older structures.

LOHAUS’s office building is the first downtown Shanghai location to connect solar energy directly to the grid. It is also the oldest building in Shanghai to have solar panels on its roof.

In January 2013, Dang Jihu became the first person in Shanghai to make use of the new ruling. He installed a solar power generating system on top of his apartment building in Jiuting Town, Songjiang District.

Liu said they started preparing for the project since very early last summer.

After reaching agreements with the owner of the house and neighbors and collecting all the necessary documents, Inch applied for official approval in mid-March. Officials from the power supply station checked the system and connected it to the grid two weeks later after confirming it can provide clean and stable electricity.

“Working with government officials was quite smooth,” said Inch.

But he admitted there were difficulties in getting it ready. Since the idea was relatively new in China, Liu had trouble in finding a company to design and install the system.

Last August, an energy company introduced them to Wuxi Boer Power Holdings Limited Company which eventually got the job done for them, Liu said.

Inch said it was also a difficult task convincing the owner and residents to agree to his idea. Many people don’t understand solar power, he said, adding that most of them had only heard of solar electric water heating.

Inch wants every community in Shanghai to build their own solar energy system, which does not cost much and can help the environment. Or else the space on the rooftop is wasted, he said.

In Shanghai, there were only 20 applications after a new ruling was adopted in October 2012 to grant an individual access to the state electrical grid, paying them for unused energy.

News portal conducted an online poll yesterday to collect opinions on installing solar energy. A total of 441 netizens had showed interest in the poll by 6:21pm yesterday with 65.3 percent saying they were interested in solar power.

State Grid Shanghai Municipal Electric Power Company said in two to three years, the city can produce a total of 300,000 to 400,000 kilowatt per hour of electricity. But it said it was a tough job selling the solar power concept to the public.


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