China promotes Olympic gains in energy efficiency

Solar panels help power the National Indoor Stadium; in other venues, advanced insulation ensures low heat transfer; and in the Olympic Village, a near-zero energy building produces almost all of its own heating and energy. But the question is if this technology can be transferred soon to other parts of China.


During the Olympic Games next month, China will promote the strides it has made in energy efficiency.


Solar panels help power the National Indoor Stadium; in other venues, advanced insulation ensures low heat transfer; and in the Olympic Village, a near-zero energy building produces almost all of its own heating and energy.


But the question is if this technology can be transferred soon to other parts of China. In a country where concrete is the dominant building material and two-thirds of energy comes from coal, much of the technology on display is relatively unproven or too expensive to gain traction quickly.


"The Olympics may be a good venue to unveil some of the technologies that China has been developing, but I'm skeptical that it will precipitate a flowering of green technologies nationwide," said Damien Ma, a China analyst at Eurasia Group . "Some of the technologies will take years to be viable nationwide and would require significant financial backing from the private sector and the state," he said, noting that China spends just a fraction of what developed countries do on research and development.


While the Olympics isn't the catalyst for China's push to become energy efficient, it has cast a spotlight on promising technologies.

China's National Indoor Stadium has a hidden system of 1,124 solar panels capable of producing 100 kW of electricity a day. “The hot water in the rooms is provided by photothermo technology," said Ding Jianming, deputy chief engineer of Beijing 2008 Project Construction Headquarters Office.

In total, solar-power systems and networks to Game venues will have a capacity of more than 480 kW.

But it isn't just solar power.


The National Indoor Stadium also has 19,000 square meters of glass that reduces heat loss and acts as a filter for ultraviolet rays.

According to the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, the new buildings incorporating energy-efficient techniques will save 75,000 tons of coal a year.

This is giving foreign companies, as well as Chinese competitors, a chance to demonstrate their energy-saving products and technology. German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG , has supplied its Integrated Stadium Solution system for managing electric installations in the Water Cube, where swimming will be held.


Mark Ginsberg, a member of the board of the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said Olympic Village could provide lasting lessons for China on energy efficiency.


The United States has provided technical assistance for the 42 six-story buildings in the village to make them about 50% more efficient. These buildings, which will house 17,000 athletes, will be sold as luxury apartments after the Games.


At the heart of Olympic Village is a near-zero-energy building, a building that is so energy efficient it produces almost all of its own heating and energy. It does this by using photovoltaic cells, roof windmills, and efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems.
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