How can poverty-alleviation funds and the poor be brought together in forming a community of interest while promoting motivation to get out of poverty?
Zhang Yaobang, Vice President of GCL New Energy, a subsidiary of GCL Group, explains how GCL’s PV poverty alleviation efforts are giving the answer.
Earlier attempts at PV-powered poverty alleviation were relatively simple: they merely gave policy-based alleviation funds to households that met poverty alleviation policy indexes. These households receive 3,000 yuan annually, which will last for a total of 20 years. After seeing the initial success of this mode, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development worked together in jointly issuing the Suggestions on Implementing PV-powered Poverty Alleviation in April of 2016. This took a further step in making it mandatory for each region to carry out PV-powered poverty alleviation projects based on the asset-income poverty alleviation mode. Such mode is working as a new force in the tough fight against poverty.
1. Symbiotic PV Power Injects Life into Rural Areas
Just before the Lunar New Year, there was a great harvest of Chinese chives grown on the land of GCL’s Xinhua PV-powered Poverty Alleviation Power Station in Houyanji of Yuncheng County, Shandong. These chives were brought over 300 km away to Ji’nan to be sold. The Chinese chives harvested from each 1/15 of a hectare were sold for 10,000 yuan.
This PV power station is part of the first national-level poverty alleviation projects in Shandong. Before being built, it was decided that the station would be operated as a symbiotic PV power station (a power station in which there is a symbiotic relationship between agricultural activity and PV power generation) so as to explore the potential of integrating the PV power and agriculture industries.
Zhang Yaobang, Vice President of GCL New Energy, said “We don’t simply wish to run a clean-energy power station and handing out policy-based poverty alleviation funds to people. Instead, we are working with the local government and the poor in creating a new agriculture industry, giving the impoverished households highly efficient production technology while promoting agriculture industry development and the joint effort at breaking the chains of poverty.”
The Xinhua PV Power Station currently boasts 173 greenhouses and outdoor cultivation areas that provide financial support to 1,600 impoverished households (40% of the region’s poor households and population).
Similarly, the large-scale cultivation of peonies for oil is underway at the symbiotic PV power stations in Funing of Jiangsu and Suzhou of Anhui. By means of developing high-end production practices for woody-oil plants, the traditional growing mode in the area has been adjusted to address market shortages while boosting land yield and the economic benefits. In developing the agriculture industry, GCL New Energy has also continually provided local farmers with seedlings and technology and purchased peony seeds and Chinese medicinal herbs, providing thorough financial relief to the poor.
For the symbiotic PV power station in Suzhou, Zhang has an even more profound vision. First, to grow peonies (for oil), Chinese medicinal herbs, fruits, and vegetables on the vast power station grounds. Then, to build smart greenhouses that integrate AI, big data, and the Internet to modernize the local agriculture industry. Zhang also plans to team up with a well-reputed local red-cooked chicken business in driving the intensive processing of agricultural products. Finally, GCL will work on developing the local tourism industry with beautiful peony fields, uniquely shaped greenhouses, and produce-picking for visitors on the power station grounds.
Zhang stated, “We wish to reach a sustainable development in the primary, secondary, and tertiary industries by means of their mutual influences and mutual advancement.”
While building up the PV power industry, GCL New Energy has always held to the principle of “farmers before power generation” as well as these ideals: no harm to the land, output, or farmers, and no disputes over sunlight, space, or land.
Based on scientific measurements, PV module rows are strictly kept within eight to ten meters apart, and each module is at least 2.8 meters above the ground, which allows the space between module rows to enjoy over six hours of sunlight daily between mid-March through October, ensuring crops grown there will have enough sunlight and allowing farm machinery to operate inside the station unobstructed.
In 2016, 591 kg of rice were yielded for every 1/15 hectare at the Donggou PV Power Rice Experimentation Area in Funing County of Jiangsu.
In aquaculture rice field experimentation carried out in 2017, 50 kg of fish, 25 kg of crabs, and 400 kg of rice were produced for every 1/15 hectare. Thus, the PV power + eco-friendly agriculture integration model has been a success.
2. Three Sources of Income for Farmers
The centralized-ground PV power station mode is another important form of PV-powered poverty alleviation. This mode brings GCL, agricultural industry businesses, and impoverished households together so as to provide the poor with three sources of income: government policy-based subsidies, land leasing, and wages for labor.
This mode is being used at Xinhua PV-powered Poverty Alleviation Power Station in Houyanji of Yuncheng County, Shandong. The operating company, Xinhua Energy, is renting 80 hectares of land there from the locals. In the first phase, 260 greenhouses were built, on the top of which were installed PV panels, thus making it a centralized PV power station. Also, the ground below the panels is rented back to local growers at low prices to grow fruits and vegetables together allowing for the development of a distinct mode of agriculture.
In this way, in addition to 3,000 yaun of poverty alleviation subsidies per year, households registered as impoverished in Houyanji earn can also earn another 1,000 – 1,200 yuan per year in land lease income.
Furthermore, large local farming contractors bring in poor people to work as laborers in their fields. Laborers earn about 40 – 50 yuan per day, which totals to about 10,000 yuan per year.
ui Feng, head of the special agriculture projects department at Xinhua PV Power and Agriculture Industry Farm, said, “With this PV-powered poverty alleviation model, a poor family with one labor force that owns 1/3 of a hectare of land is able to earn about 30,000 yuan per year.”
By the end of 2017, GCL’s PV-powered poverty alleviation power stations reached a total solar-power generating capacity of 1,290 trillion watts. These power stations are expected to provide 2.07 billion yuan in benefits to 37,935 impoverished households over 20 years.