China: Solar Lamps – The Eyes of Herdsmen at Night

Abstract Since the western regions have good conditions of sunshine and rich solar energy resources, using solar photovoltaic (PV) energy to solve the problem of electricity supply for the local residents’ life has become a major technical choice. The solar PV systems in the western regions are mainly used to solve the problem of lighting. Restricted by the level of income, the users of most PV systems can only use DC power systems without inverters, so the use of DC lamps is very popular. At present, there are totally more than 100 DC lamp manufacturers in China. The production capacities of these manufacturers are all low and the quality of their products is also uneven. The reasons of poor product quality are as follows: some large enterprises with actual strength have not set foot in this market, holding the size of this market is too small; some small enterprises use components with inferior quality and low prices to cater for consumers’ preference for inexpensive products for their low purchasing power. These reasons have led to poor product quality, short service life and high cost in service life. The World Bank/Global Environment Facility China Renewable Energy Development Project that is underway at present has selectively inspected the products of some DC lamp manufacturers to keep abreast of the current situation of DC lamp manufacturing in China, provide a scientific basis for scientific support and other activities at the next step, and finally reach the purpose of increasing product quality, reducing production cost and serving the users through the measurement of samples and the analysis and summary of the result of inspection. When conducting market survey for the World Bank-supported China Renewable Energy Development Project in the western regions in 1998, the authors once asked the herdsmen that already had solar PV systems at that time: “If somebody wants to buy your existing solar PV system, how much do you want the buyer pay?” Almost all the interviewed herdsmen answered: “We’d never sell them at any price, because they are we herdsmen’s eyes at night.” As of the end of 2002, electricity supply was still unavailable for about 30 million persons of 7,053,790 households in 21,560 villages. Most of the persons that can get no electricity live in the outlying areas of the northwestern regions that are characterized by a broad territory but a scarce population that accounts for only 28% of China’s total population. Supplying electricity through the extension of powder grids is not reasonable in economy due to many mountains, dangerous landforms and very difficult construction. However, the good conditions of sunshine and the rich solar energy resources in the western regions have made the utilization of solar PV energy a major technical choice for solving the problem of domestic electricity supply for the local residents.
Author Center for Renewable Energy Development/Energy Research Institute/ National Development and Reform Commission, World Bank China Renewable Energy Development Project Song Yanqin, Zhang Cheng, Yang Zheng, May 2006
6 Renewable Energy, 6.3 Solar Energy, 6.3.3 Rural, Township and City Solar Development Programs and Specific Case Studies