Posts Tagged ‘leshan’

Leshan, photovoltaic city

Posted 13 Aug 2011 — by jordan
Category china

The city of Leshan, in Sichuan province, South-West China, is world famous for his 70 meters high and 2000 years old Buddha. But in town, locals are prouder of living in the “Silicon Valley of China”. Why? Maybe because Leshan massively moved to photovoltaic industry 4 years ago, for which silicon is the main raw material. Leshan is now developing quickly, with construction sites everywhere and … pollution. ”Praise the Party for Accelerating Leshan’s Development” say propaganda banners near the 30 km2 Sichuan Leshan hi-tech industrial zone”.

From illegal silicon mines in the nearby mountains of Emeishan to crystal polysilicon plants run by secretive state-owned companies, we show you how Leshan has helped China to become global leader of pv industry. But at what cost? For which sacrifice? This was the purpose of my trip there. Hopefully soon to be published in a French magazine.

Here is a introduction.

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

In Sichuan, Xinguang Silicon and Tianwei New Energy are the two main state-owned companies that produce polysilicon and turn it into solar cells. Their presence in Leshan show how the governement subsidizes this “green” industry. Indeed, out of the USD$41.8 billion invested in the global solar industry in 2010, USD$33.7 came from the Chinese government.

Xinguang and Tianwei are regarded as “Number One Project” by the provincial party committee of Sichuan. Despite an approval from Tianwei CEO Ding Qiang that we met in Beijing, the Party secretary of Tianwei Leshan factory refused to let us in. We could only take pictures from outside. “Because Tianwei is now listed on stock exchange, any information about us can affect our revenue. Don’t worry, We also refused CCTV and People’s Daily journalists” the Party secretary told us.

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

And below is Tianwei New Energy factory at Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

To produce crystal polysilicon that Tianwei workers will later slice into solar cells (called wafers), some process is required. It combines silicon, hot temperature, hydrogen, water and highly toxic chemicals. Used water is rejected into Leshan Dadu river after being treated in this big machine. But some rivers in Leshan are already polluted and this is not hidden at all. On the Sichuan Environment bureau website, water quality results are published every week. For July the 30th, Minjiang river in Leshan showed a pollution level of IV (out of V) including “dissolved oxygen”. When we call local officials about these results published by upper officials in Chengdu, the answer “no, you must be wrong”.

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

This local farmer grows peanuts and sweat corn for his family, just in front of Xinguang Silicon. He told us that this industrial plant releases toxic gaz every night at 2 am, “which prevent my flowers from growing. He’s using more fertilizers, as a consequence. But this farmer now suffers from breathing troubles. He had decided to cure himself by studying traditional medicine. Let’s hope he is a fast learner…

Jordan Pouille ©

Raw material. After speaking to a silicon mine owner that we met online, we’re heading to the mountains of Emeishan on his suv. We’re greeted by local Party secretary and farmers who turned into silicon workers a few years ago. “I saved 118 people during the 2008 earthquake” says the exacavator man who has been named “Leshan Hero” by the Communist Party.

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille ©

Jordan Pouille

Jordan Pouille

Jordan Pouille ©