Chinese solar panels help Rutgers cut emissions

By Kelly Chung Dawson (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-17 14:37
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NEW YORK - New Jersey's Rutgers University boasts the largest on-campus solar panel facility in the United States, utilizing technology bought from Chinese company Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.

Since the $10 million facility went on stream last year, it has provided 10 percent of the energy used by the university, saving it more than $200,000, Rutgers officials said.

The project reflects the growing number of US companies using Chinese solar technology companies. Yingli is China's second largest solar-technology manufacturer, and like several other Chinese companies, has slashed costs to reduce prices internationally.

"We've been completely satisfied with the panels and the project," said Antonio Calcado, vice-president of facilities at Rutgers.

"We did this with the goal of saving money for the university, and also because as an institution of higher learning, we should be at the forefront of these types of projects to demonstrate that they are doable."

The solar farm, which comprises 7,600 panels and covers seven acres on the Livingston campus of Rutgers, reduces the university's carbon dioxide emissions by 1,300 tons a year, officials said.

Half of the farm's cost has been picked up by New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities.

For the project Rutgers contracted SunDurance Energy, a New Jersey-based company that chose Yingli over Western competitors.

"The Chinese panels coming into the US were very attractive from a pricing standpoint," said Todd Martin, vice-president of business development for SunDurance. The company picked Yingli after visiting China to inspect its quality control.

"After doing due diligence, we settled on Yingli based on both the pricing and quality of the product," Martin said.

Calcado said: "What it comes down to is these types of projects have to make sense from an economical standpoint, so they can then be successful."

The Rutgers solar farm was SunDurance's first project with Yingli, but the two companies plan to partner on other projects.

"We've been very satisfied with Yingli," Martin said. He expects Yingli and other Chinese companies such as Trina Solar and Suntech to continue their success in the US.

Last month, Trina Solar announced a partnership agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to begin an industrial liaison program devoted to collaboration with the school. The program will allow Trina Solar to use MIT's technology resources in its green research.

Martin said there is still some opposition to using Chinese green technology companies in the US.

"I don't think there's a perception problem about quality," Martin said.

"It's more concerns like whether the warranty will be honored, and of course, people ask, 'Why aren't you using US products?'

"There's also an overall feeling that the Chinese government is subsidizing it, which feels unfair to some people."

Martin said the Yingli plant is almost all automated, and utilizes US equipment.

Calcado said he never had reservations about using a Chinese company. "We're not in the business of precluding anyone," he said.

"This is a global economy, there were good jobs created here in the installation and the design, and getting this project up online.

"This is a model for how these types of projects are feasible, and not only possible from an economic standpoint but also adding benefit to society.

"This is a model for what other colleges and universities can do."

China Daily