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Chinese Scientist Finds Wealth in Solar
Joe McDonald, April 22, 2007 (Newsday)
Physicist Shi Zhengrong, billionaire CEO, Suntech Power Holdings Ltd.
Shi w/SecTreas Hank Paulson
Shi and other Chinese entrepreneurs are responding to Chinese political leadership and getting rich expanding Chinese clean technology.
Shi became an expert in solar energy during the 1990s in Australia and came back to lead the way in China in 2001. Solar industry sales worldwide are expected to grow 20-40% annually for the foreseeable future. A 5-year goal is to lower the cost of 175 watt panels from its present $3.50 each to $2.50 eachm aking them competitive with traditional electric generating sources in California.
Suntech is taking on industry leaders in Japan (Kyocera Corp.), Germany (Q Cells AG) and Britain (BP Solar). Its primary markets are Germany, Japan and Spain. The main Suntech facility is in Wuxi and there are three other locations in China.
- Suntech’s primary customers in Germany, Japan and Spain are subsidized by their governments. But the national market is growing, due to a push by Chinese political leadership. Chinese demand, only 10% of Suntech’s sales, is rising rapidly because clean technology is desperately needed to meet the country’s boundless energy demands without worsening its severe pollution. Beijing’s goal is for Chinese utilities to generate 10% of power from solar, wind, hydroelectric and other renewable sources by 2010, with a larger percentage in out years.
- Shi combines the virtues and strengths of the businessman and scientist. Suntech employs 3,500 Chinese at its four plants. Suntech solar cells are power-producing films sandwiched between glass sheets in groups of 72. Each generates 175 watts, less than 3 incandescent 60-watt bulbs but more than 3 CFLs of equivalent brightness.
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- Shi: "I never thought I would be a rich guy."
- Andrew Wilkinson, CLSA Emerging Markets: "The technological prowess of China is growing a lot faster than people in the West reckon…"
- Shi: "I'm a scientist…My hobby is solving technical problems…I really got into solar power by chance…I never thought this solar business could take off or become commercially viable…I thought I just needed to concentrate on my research and publish papers to do my job as a scientist."