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China Focus: Solar plane feted in world's largest PV market

Xinhua, April 22, 2015 Adjust font size:

The arrival of Solar Impulse 2, the Swiss-made solar-powered plane, on Tuesday night in the east China city of Nanjing has caught the attention of the public and photovoltaic (PV) industry insiders alike.

Powered by more than 17,000 solar cells installed on its wings, Solar Impulse 2 is circumnavigating the globe to promote green energy.

The plane landed in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, at 11:26 p.m. after leaving the southwest municipality Chongqing almost 17 hours earlier. This was the plane's final leg in China and the sixth of 12 stops on its round-the-world trip.

Chen Yifeng, senior engineer with the State Key Lab of PV Science and Technology, on Wednesday said a domestic production of a similar scale was slated for completion before the end of the year. It will use China-developed batteries that are more efficient than those powering the Swiss-made solar plane.

The plane's solar panels use Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) batteries provided by American supplier Sun Power. Each solar panel is about 135 microns thick -- thinner than a human hair.

As the world's biggest producer of solar panels, domestic PV production has lowered solar power generation costs the world over. However, research and production of high-end PV products had more potential.

Jean-Jacques de Dardel, Swiss ambassador to China, spoke to the press before the plane landed on Tuesday.

"At the first, people want to see the plane and the pilots. Then they would notice what stands behind that adventure. That may set thoughts and ambitions among the people to do their own parts to better the environment," he said.

This year is the 65th anniversary of Sino-Swiss diplomatic ties, which the ambassador said marked "a stepping stone for the common endeavors" of sustainable development between Switzerland and China.

"In Switzerland [...] we are not able to harness solar energy as you do here. We are able to develop technology in the field of clean technology. This is what we like to work on with China," he said.

China added 5.04 gigawatts (GW) of PV power generation capacity in the first three months of 2015, according to figures released by the National Energy Administration (NEA) on Monday. The cumulative installed capacity for solar PV power was 33.12 GW by the end of March.

China aims to make renewable energy its major energy source; supplying 60 percent of energy by 2050.

To achieve this goal, He Jiankun, vice president of the China Energy Research Society, said technical and system obstacles should be addressed over the next decade. Endi