Grid gets first jolt of residential solar power

Updated: 2012-12-27 00:01

By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao, Shandong (China Daily)

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A residential photovoltaic system has been connected to China's State electrical grid for the first time.

That accomplishment occurred in Qingdao, Shandong province, giving evidence of the country's desire to promote the use of solar power.

"From Dec 22, when it was connected to the grid, to Dec 25, the system generated 17.08 kilowatt-hours," said Xu Pengfei, owner of the system. "This will be enough for our household electricity needs and the surplus can be sold to the State Grid."

Local authorities said this is the first project to take advantage of a service that the State Grid Corp of China, which transmits and distributes power in the country, introduced to allow small producers of photovoltaic solar power to connect to the national grid from the start of November.

Xu, who works at a solar-power company, learned of that offer shortly after it was made and submitted an application to set up a residential system to State Grid's Qingdao branch on Nov 9.

"I am an insider in the industry and am very interested in the actual results of the system," Xu said on Wednesday.

Xu's home is on the seventh floor of an apartment building, a living arrangement that forced him to negotiate with every other resident there before he could install the system on the building's roof.

Xu said he is satisfied with the service.

"I at first bought components for the photovoltaic system and intended to install it by myself," Xu said. "But the State Grid sent two workers to help me for free."

Wu Xinhua, a project manager at Shandong Electric Power Corp, has been following the project from start to finish.

"We spent a lot of time designing the working procedures and trying to perfect it," Wu said. "It took 19 days to complete it."

The system has an installed capacity of 2 kilowatts.

"This system will generate 2,600 kilowatt-hours per year and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 2,592 tons (a year)," Xu Pengfei said.

The new policy says the work needed to connect a private photovoltaic system with a capacity below 5 megawatts to the grid will be performed free of charge. It also stipulates that State Grid purchases the surplus electricity generated by such a system.

Wu Xinhua said rooftop photovoltaic systems have become very popular in the United States and Europe. Even so, some believe the systems might be put to better use in factories.

"It still requires a huge investment and only has a long-term prospect of providing a return on capital for people who don't have subsidies," he said.

By relying on his professional abilities and private connections, Xu was able to buy the components for his system for about 20,000 yuan ($3,170), a relatively reasonable price.

"It might take other people more than 30,000 yuan to install one of these systems, including labor and other costs," Xu said.

Although the first connection in China between a residential photovoltaic systems and the State Grid took place in Qingdao, such an arrangement might prove more successful in central and western parts of the country, where there are more daylight hours, insiders said.

Many small and medium-sized producers of solar cells have gone bankrupt after seeing a decrease in the number of orders they have received from foreign markets.

To reduce the industry's dependency on exports, the government has begun to promote the use of distributed power generation, or the generation of electricity from many small sources.

About a week ago, Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a State Council executive meeting at which the topics of discussion included the Chinese photovoltaic industry's overcapacity, high dependency on overseas markets and financial difficulties.

Meng Xian'gan, deputy director of the China Renewable Energy Society, called for an expansion of the domestic market.

"Distributed solar-power generation will allow the industry to develop so long as grid connection problems are solved," he said.