In 1995, SELF was awarded a contract by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to provide 500 solar home systems to farmers and herdsmen in Gansu Province. Part of a Protocol Agreement to cooperate on renewable energy projects between the Chinese State Science and Technology Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, the NREL-supported project builds on the village electrification program initiated in Gansu in 1993, and will be used as the paradigm for the expansion of rural solar electrification projects to other provinces of China.
Also in 1995, with the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation, SELF acquired a 49% equity stake in Gansu PV Company (GPV), a photovoltaic systems integrator and distribution company. Managed by Professor Wang Anhua, who is the father of photovoltaics in China, GPV has sold more than 1,000 solar home systems in rural Gansu and neighboring provinces, and is currently negotiating solar home systems supply contracts with government agencies that would increase annual sales by 2000 units. With GPV’s commercial success, SELF’s stake in the company was transferred to its for–profit affiliate, the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO).
Professor Wang, with backing from the Shaanxi provisional government, is also working with a large electronics company to identify an overseas venture partner to establish a solar cell and module manufacturing facility in China. GPV, SELF and SELCO would have equity interest in the manufacturing joint-venture. With this new venture, we expect the number of solar electrification projects in rural China to grow exponentially, and that rural China’s darkness will be soon in the past.