15 February 2019

What’s blocking growth of family rooftop solar power?

Silicon Valley icon Elon Musk is not only known for his sleek Tesla electric cars; his solar power station unit, Solar City, is one of the biggest in this new energy business in the United States.

Tesla is busy preparing for its expansion into China. It would make perfect sense for Solar City to also seek opportunities in the world’s biggest energy-consuming country at some point, especially when recent policy moves in the mainland have been giving extra support to such on-site solar energy projects.

Qingdao native Xu Pengfei is one of the early birds who bought the roof-top family solar station idea.

Xu invested 20,000 yuan (US$3,250) last year in the project. He is now able to enjoy power savings and income from extra power generated by the solar unit, 21st Century Business Herald reported.

With the 42 fen per kilowatt-hour subsidy announced in August, the payback period of his investment is expected to be shortened to 10 years from 15.

China has 20 billion square meters of rooftops that remain largely untapped for solar power purposes, leaving plenty of room for development, the financial daily reported.

All that sounds encouraging but to have millions of people like Xu, some hurdles need to be cleared.

Xu lives on the fifth floor of a seven-storey building. He had to convince each household to let him use the shared roof for panel installation. Xu also got special permission from local authorities that made selling power to the grid possible.

In fact, Xu works for a company that makes solar equipment. He knows where to get them at a discount.

Administrative hurdles including complicated licensing procedures, higher equipment costs and installation expenses are going to make life more difficult for the average person looking to do the same.

However, help is on the way. China Development Bank is planning to issue loans to individual solar power investors, easing the initial investment burden. Also, tax benefits are being considered, according to media reports. These would boost return on investment from such projects. Lower equipment prices are also widely expected as technology advances.

Home-based rooftop solar power is still in its infancy in China. It will take years before it catches up with countries such as Germany, but things look promising.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



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