Subsidies for China Clean Energy & Solar for New York Roofs

Subsidies for China Clean Energy & Solar for New York Roofs

The Chinese government is considering plans to subsidize the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy technologies in new buildings and is encouraging provincial and municipal governments to impose stricter efficiency standards than the national minimums, according to Chinese officials. And two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map..

By KEITH BRADSHER in New York Times (15 June 2011):

SHANGHAI — The Chinese government is considering plans to subsidize the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy technologies in new buildings and is encouraging provincial and municipal governments to impose stricter efficiency standards than the national minimums, Chinese officials said Wednesday.

China’s heightened interest in saving energy — a response to electricity shortages and blackouts this year as well as longer-term security worries about dependence on energy imports — comes as the country’s construction industry continues to barrel ahead at a breathtaking pace. Last year, China consumed eight times as much cement as the world’s second-largest consumer, India, and it now leads the world in consumption of steel and other industrial materials by wide margins.

With 13 million to 21 million rural people in China migrating to cities each year — a number comparable to the 18.9 million people in metropolitan New York — the real estate industry has been putting up office towers and apartment buildings at a brisk pace but often with little regard for energy efficiency.

Chinese estimates show that the country’s commercial office buildings use 10 to 20 percent less electricity per square meter than comparable Western buildings. But the savings tend to come not from better designs but from thermostats set as high as 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in summer and as low as 18 degrees (64 Fahrenheit) in winter.

Senior executives in the glass manufacturing and other material industries said that Chinese construction companies had long chosen low-cost, less insulated materials because buildings in China tended to change hands so frequently that owners seldom looked at long-term paybacks from electricity savings.

The construction boom is a central reason China passed the United States last year as the world’s largest consumer of electricity. China has also passed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of global warming gases, although it lags far behind in emissions and electricity consumption per person, because it has more than four times as many people as the United States.

Hao Bin, the building energy-efficiency director at the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said Wednesday that the ministry had already adopted an energy labeling system for new commercial and government buildings but wanted to create fiscal incentives for developers to use more efficient materials and adopt renewable energy. The most effective course seems to lie in subsidies for materials, as government studies have suggested that tax credits would be less effective, he said.

Some Chinese cities and provinces, from Beijing in the northeast to Yunnan in the southwest, already have limited subsidies for construction supplies, including insulation and rooftop solar water heaters. The heaters have water-filled steel tubes that zigzag in front of a reflective surface, which concentrates the sun’s rays on the tubes.

The Chinese central government has begun taking preliminary steps to subsidize the installation of rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, but the Finance Ministry has moved slowly because of concerns about the potential cost. China already manufactures more than half the world’s solar panels, but exports almost all of them.

Mr. Hao declined to provide a date for the introduction of a national incentive policy for energy-efficient construction materials and did not specify what materials would qualify. But he said that it was a focus of policy planners.

The question that policy makers are asking themselves, he said, is, “How can we have a carrot policy which is supplemented by our labeling system?”

Provincial governments have already begun subsidizing the construction of factories that produce energy-efficient products like triple-layer insulated glass.

Hongda Vacuum, a manufacturer of glass-coating equipment for solar panels and insulated windows, bought valuable land next to a large road six years ago on the outskirts of Changsha in Hunan Province for a third of the cost at the time for industrial land, said Huang Le, a marketing executive for the company. Surging land prices since then meant that the property soon became worth 10 times as much on the market as the price the company had paid for it, with a discount, in 2005, he said in an interview last year.

“We got the discount because we are a good project, something the government really wants to promote,” Mr. Huang said, adding that the company could borrow against the value of the land to finance expansion.

The central government has already renovated nearly 5,000 of its own buildings in northern China to install more insulation. It has subsidized similar renovations for buildings owned by provincial, municipal and village governments.

A complication for China is that the latest five-year plan, starting this year, calls for a sharp increase in the construction of low-income housing — traditionally an industry with low profit margins and a bias toward inexpensive materials — together with further curbs on the construction of high-end housing.

But Zhou Jiang, a policy researcher for the housing ministry, said Wednesday that energy-efficient materials added only 5 to 10 percent to the cost of a building.

“It is possible we build our low-income housing as green buildings,” Mr. Zhou said.

He and Mr. Hao were speaking at the opening of the Global Green Building China Focus 2011 conference in Shanghai.

One point that they did not address was how long it might take for energy-saving materials to pay for themselves in electricity savings. The Chinese government has been holding down electricity prices as an anti-inflation measure even as spot prices for coal, the country’s dominant fuel for power generation, have doubled in the last five years.

Chinese electricity companies have responded by limiting the operating hours of coal-fired plants in the last two years and slowing construction of new power plants, causing blackouts that have focused more public attention on the energy efficiency of buildings.

Residential electricity rates in China are half to two-thirds of rates in the United States. Industrial electricity rates in China are officially higher than those in the United States, but large or politically connected users frequently receive discounts.

By MIREYA NAVARRO in New York Times (16 June 2011):

Two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map to be made public on Thursday.

People interested in solar power can now check the suitability of any city address for solar panels and what their impact would be. Details are also available for properties that have panels, above.

The map, which shows the solar potential of each of the city’s one-million-plus buildings, is a result of a series of flights over the city by an airplane equipped with a laser system known as Lidar, for light detection and ranging.

Swooping over the five boroughs last year, the plane collected precise information about the shape, angle and size of the city’s rooftops and the shading provided from trees and structures around them.

The map is at the Web site of the City University of New York. City officials said the information should advance efforts to increase the city’s reliance on solar power as part of its energy mix, reducing the metropolis’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The quality of the Lidar information is so remarkable that it will much more rapidly unlock usable sites,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor for operations.

Over all, the images show that 66.4 percent of the city’s buildings have roof space suitable for solar panels, said the CUNY team, which developed the map in partnership with the city and the federal Department of Energy. The rooftops could generate up to 5,847 megawatts from hundreds of thousands of buildings, the team said, compared with the negligible 6.5 megawatts yielded now from about 400 installations.

At those output levels, the panels could meet 49.7 percent of the current estimated daytime peak demand and about 14 percent of the city’s total annual electricity use, the officials said. The figures consider typical weather conditions.

Yet harnessing solar power also involves overcoming barriers like the upfront costs of installation, the availability of installers and the ability of utilities to integrate solar power into their grid. Solar power is projected to grow into a $12-billion-a-year industry this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, but the sector is still in its infancy.

Nationwide, the installed solar capacity is just 2,300 megawatts, less than half the rooftop potential of New York City.

“We’re just really beginning,” said Rhone Resch, president of the trade group.

The solar map will allow New Yorkers to type in the address of a building where they live or work and find out how much solar power the roof can yield and at what cost. The Web site indicates what government financial incentives are available to help cover the costs and calculates how long it would take a building’s owner to recoup the costs in energy savings.

For the more environmentally minded, the map also shows how much carbon dioxide emissions each property would avoid, in pounds and by the number of trees that, if planted, could absorb that amount of emissions.

The solar map alone cost $210,000 and was financed by the federal Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program. The city provided $450,000 for the Lidar flights.

Lidar produces images of structures, trees, wetlands and other surface terrain by shooting laser pulses from an aircraft and measuring the time it takes the pulses to bounce back. Its data will also be used to update flood maps.

More than a dozen cities already use similar maps, although not necessarily prepared with the Lidar system, and some of the maps have contributed to broadening the use of solar power. In San Francisco, the number of solar installations on private roofs rose to more than 2,300 this year, from 551 in 2007, when the solar map was introduced along with financial incentives like tax credits and rebates.

“It’s sort of a one-stop shop for people to understand what the technology is, does it make financial sense, are others doing this,” said Danielle Murray, the renewable energy program manager for San Francisco’s Environment Department. “You realize that you’re not alone, and that it’s a smart investment.”

In New York, David Bragdon, director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said the city could realistically add “thousands of megawatts” in solar power.

To that end, Mr. Bragdon said, it has been working on streamlining the installation permit process and relaxing building regulations to accommodate the panels, in addition to pursuing larger-scale solar projects at landfills and other sites.

Officials with Con Edison, the utility that supplies electric service to most of the city, said they were developing a centralized Web site to reduce the cost and time of going through all the paperwork required to install the panels, which currently can take up to a year.

The city had already identified some “solar empowerment zones” where solar energy would be most beneficial, based on growing demand for power and other factors. The solar map now will offer roof-by-roof information within those  zones, allowing planners to locate and aid owners in areas with the highest demand on hot and sunny days.

“This map can serve as a key foundation toward building a new infrastructure, a clean energy infrastructure, for New York City,” said Tria Case, the director of sustainability for CUNY.


2 Responses to “Subsidies for China Clean Energy & Solar for New York Roofs”

  1. This is nice. Both big countries goes for Clean Energy. A beginning for Clean Economy.

    - Solar Panel Australia -

  2. It is a good idea! Planning to subsidize the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy technologies in new buildings helps in low consumption of electricity. Since china is overpopulated than other countries the consumption is more. If the renewable energy program comes into action it benefits the commercial and industrial peoples. Furthermore its qquite amazing to see how RC aircraft helps to produce images of structures, trees, wetlands.

Leave a Reply