Meet Huang Ming, solar energy pioneer behind China’s ambitious, record breaking Solar Valley – where 98% of energy used in the city of De Zhou, comes from solar energy. Could this be the model for future cities across the world?
When Huang Ming saw the damage caused by pollution in his home town, he was devastated. That, followed by the birth of his daughter soon after, inspired him to quit his day job and dedicate his life and bank balance to solar energy research.
Today, the company Huang Ming founded – Himin – has become one of the world’s most successful solar energy companies.
Huang Ming takes us on a personalised tour of his city and the inspiration behind his favourite buildings – the Sun and Moon Mansion and the factories topped with solar panels. He also reveals some of the research and development Himin are doing to introduce solar power into everyday items used across the world.
Half of China’s population now use solar energy and the country makes the most solar heaters and panels in the world. But with this adding up to just 1% of the world’s energy consumption, Huang Ming believes there’s so much more still to be done.
China Icons meets Huang Ming
On camera, Huang Ming appears a small, softly-spoken man. But beneath this grandfather’s persona lie great ambition and drive. During our interview he jokes about his nickname as ‘the solar energy mad man’. He is, in fact, the founder of one of the world’s most successful solar energy companies.
We meet Huang Ming at the SUN AND MOON BUILDING, the eye-catching centrepiece of SOLAR VALLEY and HQ for his company Himin Solar Energy Group. Huang Ming has spent the last thirty years building both his company and Solar Valley up from scratch. Today, Himin Solar is the world’s biggest producer of solar heaters as well a pioneer in the research and development of other everyday solar products. Goldman Sachs is among the company’s investors.
Like a proud father, Huang Ming lights up when he talks about the Sun and Moon building, describing it as one of his favourite buildings. It is an impressive, white semi-circular structure – its shape inspired by the pictographic characters for sun and moon. At night, photovoltaic powered LEDs light up its exterior, and inside, the hot water, heating, refrigeration is all solar-powered. The glass has been specially developed by Himin to insulate, capture natural light and provide sound-proofing. Across Dezhou, this impressive record continues. It has become a hub for green innovation, described by the International Solar Cities Congress as a ‘centre of gravity for renewable technologies’. The city hosts what Huang Ming believes to be the world’s first solar energy factory roof. Integrated solar thermal or photo-voltaic technology are in 95% of new buildings and solar water heater use in Dezhou exceeds 3 million square metres, approximately equal to the total amount installed in the EU and twice that of the US, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
More than 300km away, Himin’s technologies are also used in Beijing to power Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum. And across China, half the population use solar energy, making up 76% of the world’s solar consumption
But 30 years ago, it was all very different. Huang Ming worked in the oil industry and the Dezhou area was farmland. The 80s was a decade that changed Huang Ming’s life.
In 1985, recently married, Huang Ming took his new wife to his grandmother’s home in Wuxi, on the journey regaling her with tales of the beauty of the city’s Tai Lake. But when they arrived, the lake was dank, black, and smelly. Huang Ming was stung by the disappointment of his new bride, as well as the loss of this natural beauty.
The birth of his daughter followed several years after and Huang Ming became anxious about how her life would be without fossil fuel and clear skies. With the support of his wife, he decided to plough his savings and time into solar energy research. And so began his dream to create Solar Valley.
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