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Shepherd tends flock and solar panels

China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-13 08:17

HOHHOT — Under a sea of blue solar panels, wandering sheep graze on fresh grass in the pasture lands of northern China.

"That's my flock. I'm a shepherd with a job, I'm also a maintenance worker at the solar power station," said 30-year-old Hasenmongkh, pointing to his herd of one hundred.

The photovoltaic power station was built by Beijing BOE Energy Technology, on arid land in the Sonid Right Banner in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

With a total installed capacity of 200,000 kilowatts and an 85-megawatt-hour energy storage system, the station was built in five months and began generating electricity immediately. It was connected to the grid in December and has generated 160 million kilowatt-hours of green electricity since then.

It covers an area of nearly 466.7 hectares, borrowing pastures owned by two herding households, including Hasenmongkh's. As a result, Hasenmongkh is entitled to an annual rent of 600 yuan ($83) per hectare.

Guan Chao, director of the station, said that the photovoltaic modules are installed 1.5 meters above the ground, which is higher than normal, to leave sufficient room for livestock to pass beneath.

Hasenmongkh finds it easy to herd his sheep at the station because they seek the shade, where the grass grows better.

"I just need to give them water at noon every day, which doesn't affect my work at the power station," he said, adding that he earns nearly 4,000 yuan a month as a maintenance worker in addition to the 110,000 yuan he receives each year for the land lease.

There are five herders among the 13 local residents employed at the power station in the county-level banner. The "photovoltaic plus" development model of renewable energy has been encouraged in a number of provincial-level regions, including Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Qinghai, Hubei and Zhejiang.

The shade cast by the solar panels is useful for more than growing lush grass, and is also used to grow drought-resistant plants such as certain medicinal herbs.

In Chaidam village in the Dalad Banner, rows of Astragalus membranaceus (a traditional medicinal herb which is consumed for its revitalizing properties) grow under 333 hectares of photovoltaic modules.

The power station here has an installed capacity of 1 million kilowatts and generates about 2 billion kilowatt-hours of green electricity a year, or the equivalent of 680,000 metric tons of standard coal, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.65 million tons.


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