Solar-aquaculture project tenders rise in China as costs drop

A tender issued by local government in Guangdong Province suggests a spate of new integrated aquaculture-solar installations is underway in China, benefiting firms like the Tongwei Group, which is a leader in aquafeed and tilapia production as well as solar panel manufacturing.

A circular issued from the Taishan region in Guangdong for the installation of 200 megawatts (MW) of solar panel capacity is one of a string of similar new tenders issued recently. Solar-fish installations are being adopted by regional governments across China for their potential to produce energy and seafood and also to draw tourists and conserve water, according to executives at Tongwei speaking at a ceremony launching construction of another solar-aquaculture project.

The company’s latest 100-MW project in Gao An, Jiangxi Province, is a CNY 403 million (USD 57.2 million, EUR 51.7 million) investment being financed by Tongwei, with access to the grid provided by local government.

Tongwei’s strategy of combining seafood and solar was lauded by the head of Tongwei’s solar arm, which recently marked its sixth anniversary. Tongwei Solar now has 8,000 employees, according to Xie Yi, chair of the company, and aside from being an installer of solar panels at its own and affiliated fish farms, the company has also become China’s biggest photovoltaic cell maker.

Increased usages for solar are driving sales for panels, Xie said. Pakistan’s government aims to use solar panels on its waterways and reservoirs as a means of conservation – by limiting evaporation – as well as for energy generation. And engineers in Punjab are using Chinese-made floating solar panels to run irrigation systems and well pumps.

Also helping the long-term prospects for solar in China – and for Tongwei – is the increasing cost-competitiveness of solar, which has become competitive with coal-fired power in bids for government electricity auctions, even as China removes grid feed-in subsidies for solar energy.

Investors appear to like the Tongwei Group’s strategy of driving growth from investments in both aquaculture and renewable energy, as the company's share price is currently worth CNY 13.80 (USD 1.96, EUR 1.77), compared to CNY 8.40 (USD 1.19, EUR 1.08) a year ago. The company’s diversification appears to have assuaged investors worried about the fallout from falling pig herd numbers and hog culls due to the recent outbreak of African swine flu in China, which has hurt Tongwei’s feed sales.

Photo courtesy of MeSamong/Shutterstock


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