Hefei authorities are expanding the distribution of solar power panels in Hefei, Anhui province, part of their efforts to tackle rural poverty, after the successful implementation of a yearlong pilot program.
About 100 households have already benefited since the beginning of the pilot program in July of last year, while 200 more will be fitted by the end of October. The program allows households not only to generate energy but also an income.
One beneficiary of the program is Meng Fansheng, now in his 60s, a rural resident of Yangmiao township, Changfeng county.
Meng has been in ill health for some years with a herniated lumbar disc, and he finds it difficult to work. His wife also has health problems.
Apart from a government allowance, the couple mainly lives on land transfer rent, and the family's annual net income was around 1,800 yuan ($293) before a photovoltaic generator was installed in their house.
The generator consists of 30 square meters of solar panels installed on the roof of Meng's house by the local government at the end of last year at no charge.
"Connected to the overall power networks, the PV generator not only meets the couple's daily needs, but also supplies surplus power to the networks, earning an additional subsidy for the family", according to Wu Lin, deputy head of the township.
After being put into use in January, the device has generated about 3,000 kilowatt-hours, with a little more than 2,000 kWh sold to the power grid.
Each kWh of generated electricity sees a subsidy of 0.359 yuan, while the surplus power sold to the networks can earn 0.42 yuan per kWh.
"This has brought me an income of about 2,000 yuan so far and we should earn 2,500 yuan each year, which is quite a big sum of money to me", said Meng.
The money will be paid to him at the end of each year through his bank account issued by the municipal government, a measure to prevent corruption from community officials.
In Shijin community, where Meng lives, 49 other families have also received help. Each family was allocated a similarly designed two-floor house in 2012 as their former homes were on land transfer sites.
"To install the PV generator, the house should be of good quality and the roof should be sturdy enough to hold the solar panels," said Yang Jun, director of Changfeng county's poverty relief office.
Yang said the government will renovate homes not sturdy enough, or build new ones, in order to install the generators.
"As the central government pledged earlier this year, we have to take targeted measures in poverty relief, which requires effective and sustainable methods", said He Jie, director of Hefei government's commission of rural affairs.
As the first in China to adopt the practice in rural poverty relief, "Hefei has accumulated valuable experience", regarding solar power, according to Chen Changfei, an official of the State Council's poverty relief office.
The municipal government has also issued favorable policies to encourage families in both rural and urban areas to install them and promised to cover about half of the costs.
Solar power will also help curb air pollution and promote the city's photovoltaic industry.
Hefei's PV industry, an important manufacturing base, reported an output value of 12.83 billion yuan from January to August, while the annual number is expected to hit 30 billion yuan by 2015.
A worker from the State Grid in Feidong county, Anhui province, demonstrates to a rural resident how to operate a solar power generator.