Jinko Solar Jig

A solar panel maker which was targeted by violent protests over pollution from one of its factories in eastern China recently apologized and says that it will do what is necessary to clean it up. Jinko Solar Holding Co., which is the parent company of the factory in Haining city west of Shanghai, said that the first round of tests showed pollutants could have spilled into a nearby river.

The cops detained some twenty people after hundreds protested last week, some storming the factory compound and turning over cars. The fuzz said that the factory had failed to address other environmental complaints and that the protests followed mass fish deaths in late August.

Jinko Solar, whose shares are listed on the NYSE, says that the factory’s production was suspended though could likely resume within only a few days.

“The company will take all necessary steps to ensure that it is in compliance with all environmental rules and regulations. Any deficiencies in environmental protection uncovered will be immediately remedied…”

The Haining demonstration does well in reflecting the nasty side of clean energy. While the use of solar power may reduce the need for burning heavily polluting coal and other fossil fuels, the process of making photovoltaic cells utilizes various chemicals and materials that can also be toxic. The protests in Haining are the latest increasingly bold public reactions to environmental concerns after three decades of laxly regulated industrialization.

Protests in rural areas and smaller cities are often quashed or ignored. However, those in and near big cities like Shanghai appear to be having influence on leaders who have pledged to deliver an increasingly sustainable, healthy lifestyle along with job-creating growth.

Only last month, a protest by 12,000 residents in the northeastern port city of Dalian against a chemical plant drew a pledge by local officials to relocate the plant. Storm waves breached a dike who was guarding the plant, raising fright in the name of flood waters releasing toxic chemicals. Similar protests in 2007 in Xiamen was also successful. Then, down in Shanghai, the authorities suspended operations at one of the world’s biggest lead-acid battery plants, run by the United States-firm Johnson Controls Inc. after residents living in an industrial zone complained that the lead levels in dozens of children were many times above the legal limit. The firm says that it didn’t believe its factory was the cause of any unsafe lead emissions.

The city government reported on Tuesday that seven of seventeen lead-acid battery plants in the city of 23 million were ordered to stop production due to excessive lead emissions. Lead poisoning may hurt the nervous, muscular and reproductive systems. Children are especially at risk to irreversible damage, especially from low exposure levels. Officials even said that the city was expanding the tests to include even more children.

In the meantime, Shanghai’s Jinshan District, the site of a massive petrochemicals zone, says it had shut down 75 firms because of health risks from dangerous chemicals in a six-month safety campaign.


Fiber Optic Rods Seeds

Well, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai is now underway with some of the most amazing sights seen at any World’s Fair. Also, it is the largest and most expensive World’s Fair to date, with over 190 countries participating. While each pavilion holds amazing sights and sounds, one has stood out especially to nature lovers: the UK Pavilion, otherwise known as the Seed Cathedral, designed by British designer extraordinaire, Thomas Heatherwick. The massive structure seems alive with its swelling “hairs” and the promise of life encapsulated in each.

Interior Seed Cathedral
The Seed Cathedral stands at 66 feet high and features 60,000 transparent fiber optic rods, each 25 feet long and containing one or more seeds embedded in one end. The outside of the structure looks like a dandelion about to disperse its seeds. The rods gracefully sway with each breeze.

The interior of the structure is illuminated with exterior light which seeps down the rods. At the end of each rod are real seeds donated by China’s Kunming Institute of Botany in cooperation with the UK’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank Project. Well, the potential for life is encased in each of the tiny seeds.

Heatherwick’s objective in designing the pavilion was to invent a structure which is a direct reflection of its purpose and contents.

Delana from WebEcoist writes:

“The pavilion is a testament to the power and beauty of life, and it grandly echoes the grace of nature and the beauty of plants. It also stands out among the other pavilions at the Expo, most of which are technology-based and filled with flickering images and booming sounds”.

During the evening, the structure glows from within. That is, light sources in each rod facilitate the light to travel outward. Inside, each seed is illuminated in order to highlight its form and structure. Even clouds passing overhead are experienced within the Seed Cathedral as subtle flickers of light and shadow because the fiber optic rods were specifically designed to be sensitive to fluctuating exterior light changes.

When the Expo is over in October, the seeds will continue life in a new niche. The fiber optic “hairs” will be distributed to hundreds of schools in the UK and China.