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Tibetan farmers too poor to afford solar house

January 16, 2009
Jan 14, 2009
Energy experts from the China National Engineering Centre for Housing Settlements (CNECHS) in Beijing have designed a solar house for Tibetans with the aim to reduce their dependency on cattle dung for warmth, reported G-Online (Australia) Jan 14. It said the project would provide a free source of energy and combat carbon emissions as part of an initiative called Action at the Third Pole of the Earthinitiative, which seeks to address environmental issues around Mount Everest. However, doubts have been expressed about the house’s affordability to the Tibetans.
Zeng Yan, chief architect of the Institute of Solar Building Technology, has said the experimental house, to be built in May, is supported by three core techniques: insulation, energy collection and energy storage. The report said the 100 square-metre house has, apart from other features, an embedded greenhouse that collects the sun's energy, which can be transferred to the surrounding bedrooms and living room by opening connecting windows and doors.
However, Xie Yuan, head of the Department of Science and Technology of Qinghai Province, has said that the houses might be unaffordable for local Tibetans. The annual personal income in a typical village is less than 1,700 Chinese yuan (around US$249), but the new house costs nearly 40,000 yuan (around US$5,850), the report cite him as saying.
The report noted that though Tibet is the richest province in the PRC in terms of solar energy and there are several small-sized photovoltaic plants in operation, they have not played a major role for Tibetans because of high costs and maintenance.
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