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Follow Solar Fred … to China


About a month ago, I received a very nice invitation from Trina Solar to tour their new solar factory in Changzhou, China, outside of Shanghai, expenses paid. Naturally, I said yes, and so did several other solar media people from around the world.

I leave the U.S. tomorrow (Saturday), but I’m going to try to bring you all with me....if I can find a good internet connection and have a chance to do some quick blog posts here on Renewable Energy World—perhaps even with photos.

There are a number of reasons why I’m excited about this trip. Did I mention I was going to China for the first time in my life? As in, real Chinese food? As in three extra days in Shanghai? As in, I don’t speak a word of Mandarin, besides “hello” and “thank you?”

Beyond the gee-whiz tourist opportunity of it all, I’m also excited because, although I’ve been around solar PV panels, I’ve never actually toured a PV factory. Trina’s factory is reported to be one of the most modern out there, and I’m interested to see several things:

1)   What goes into making PV panels in 2011 and how are costs kept so low?

2)   Who goes into making PV panels in 2011. That is, how many jobs are created with modern automated facilities today?

3)   How Trina is making the case that solar PV panels in 2011 are more than just a $/watt solar commodity.

From a solar marketing consultant’s perspective, I’m also very interested in discovering how solar energy is perceived in China from industry people, as well as the people on the street. Are there huge solar geeks like me, or is solar just another energy mandate to feed their growing economy?

China leads the world in solar thermal installations, excluding solar pool panels. (The US is number one there.) And according to Reuters, China now has a goal of installing 10 gigawatts of solar PV by 2015 and has also raised its installed 2020 target to 50 GW, up from the previous goal of 20 GW.

How are companies going to achieve these goals? What type of marketing and government incentives will get them there? What are the Chinese people’s attitude toward global warming?

So many questions, but only a week to find the answers… or at least a few answers.

Now you see why Solar Fred is so excited. I hope you’ll all follow my posts here and of course comment on what I learn and see. However, don’t expect me to respond too quickly, as I’ll be, you know, half way around the world and probably sleeping while you’re reading these posts and commenting.

And by the way, for all my Twitter followers reading this, due to, er, uhm, hmm, let’s say, technical difficulties, I will not be able to access Twitter next week. So, I hope my solar Twitter friends will @ me some good solar news Tweets to @solarfred so that I can catch up on all the solar news headlines when I get back.

As always, even from half way around the world in China, I urge you all to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and public relations. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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