Solar Power's China Problem

The industry's key materials are made with forced labor.

Solar Power's China Problem

The cost and ease of producing electricity from solar energy has never been lower.

Solar energy prices have fallen by 85 percent in the last five years, mainly due to government subsidies in China. This has sparked a boom of new connections around the world. For the first time ever, solar energy is expected to attract more investment than oil this year.

This is good news for climate change. The solar energy supply chain remains dominated by China. This authoritarian nation is engaged in a war of trade with the U.S. Many of the key materials and components for the industry are made in China.

Made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Region

in western China.

Recently, the U.S. has led other countries to take a serious approach in challenging China's dominance. But according to

Ana Swanson and Ivan Penn have covered new research by me.

These efforts have mixed results.

The report

. Produced by human rights experts and solar industry professionals, the report found that the vast number of solar panels are still exposed to the Xinjiang area, where the U.S. government and the U.N. claim the Chinese government commits numerous human rights abuses.

Solar companies are also sharing less information on where they source materials, which makes it harder to determine if panels were produced using forced labor.

All of this presents a major problem for governments such as the U.S. Only by building up their solar capacity can they have both.

Ivan said: "The question at the core is how do you create a cleaner supply chain now, when you are so far behind?"

China has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build up its solar industry. It controls today

Solar panels are made up of more than 80 per cent building blocks

China dominates production throughout the supply chain. China's share of the global market is expected to increase.

The rate of increase will reach 95 percent within the next few years

Based on the manufacturing capacity currently under construction.

Solar manufacturing in Xian (Shanxi Province).


Muyu Xu/Reuters

For a long period of time, other countries were happy to enjoy the benefits. Solar panel prices have fallen so quickly and dramatically largely because of China's massive investment. Nobody else was interested in investing heavily in a low-margin, commodified technology. The

Well-known fact

It was conveniently ignored that China forced Uyghurs - an ethnic minority in Xinjiang - to work in their factories.

There has been an increasing desire in recent years to reduce China's dominance. Last year, the International Energy Agency stated that

Expanding and diversifying solar supply chains beyond China

It was an important step in the global energy transition.

Last year, a U.S. court of commerce concluded that

Four of the largest Chinese solar producers violated tariffs

By laundering products through factories located in Southeast Asia. In addition to the rising geopolitical tensions and human rights abuses, getting tough with Chinese solar has become a rare issue.

bipartisan support in Congress


This pushback was also a direct hit on economic reality. It would be better to take a harder line against China immediately.

Solar industry in the U.S. crippled

It is rushing to meet ambitious clean-energy goals. President Biden

vetoed legislation

This would have reinstated harsh tariffs on certain Chinese solar products. The U.S. Industry could then try to diversify their supply chain for a few extra years.

The clock continues to tick. There is no indication that other countries are going to be able match China's solar product output anytime soon.

This photo shows a solar farm constructed in Inner Mongolia to reveal an upside-down horse pattern.


Wu Hao/EPA, via Shutterstock

Where are you going to get all these raw materials, especially if we're accelerating at such a rapid pace? Ivan asked.

Biden signed the climate law last year

It seems that this is the type of government assistance that could jumpstart the nation's fledgling solar industry.

The law has already led to several companies making large investments in U.S. manufacturing. First Solar, for example, uses a production technique that doesn't require polysilicon.

China is less dependent on it


As the new report indicates, it will be extremely difficult to produce the amount of solar panels needed by the world without using products from Xinjiang.

Photovoltaic panels are made by a limited number of companies around the world. As competition increases, manufacturers are less willing to disclose their supply chain for fear of revealing their competitors.

Solar energy has been popular for many years, but the costs could rise again if production is moved out of China.

Costs of solar manufacturing in China

The cost of living in India is estimated to be 10 per cent cheaper than the U.S., and 20 per cent lower than Europe.

All of this sounds intimidating. Solar power was not cheap and efficient 10 years ago.

Real investments, smart policies, tough decisions on permitting, a little luck, and lots of land will be needed. The industry is racing against China to catch up. Ivan told that the majority of sources with whom he spoke had a message for him. 'We have to race faster if we are to catch up.

Eugenia Karba is the first Chief Heat Officer of Freetown, Sierra Leone. This position was created in 2021.


Yagazie Emezi for The New York Times

You can also find out more about the people by clicking here.

Around the World

There are ways cities can help cool people down. Heat officers are located in many places.

Freetown is the capital city of Sierra Leone


Miami-Dade County, Fla.



You can also find out more about the following:


They are trying to find localized solutions. C40, an international network of cities that are committed to combating climate change, has put together a list

There are several ways to solve the problem

Already in use

Understanding the problem

Cities are analyzing health data and measuring the urban heat in various neighborhoods to identify vulnerable clusters. New York has developed a

Heat vulnerability index

Melbourne began focusing on its response to heat by mapping how it affects different communities.

Homeless people


Heat wave plans have been developed in many cities.

Ahmedabad in India estimates that it prevents more than 1,000 deaths per year using

Its plan

The plan includes a system of early warning and the training of health care professionals. The best plans of action focus on keeping the public informed and tracking resources.

Paris and other cities have an app

This app assesses heat vulnerability, and directs users to nearby cooling centers. It also suggests cool walking routes.

Some cities are also experimenting with longer-term solutions.


White paint

Cooling down surfaces has become a popular strategy. Los Angeles, among other cities, has included cool roofs as part of their

Building code requirements

Another way to green spaces is by planting trees.

Powerful intervention

One study reviewed by

El Pais

Researchers found that by covering 30% of a city in trees and other vegetation, heat-related deaths could be reduced by one third. Several cities have tried it. Medellin is building interconnected

green corridors

According to the company's own reports, this has lowered temperatures by 2 Celsius or 3.6 Fahrenheit.

Cities can do more than just provide relief from the heat. They can help reduce global warming by improving public transport and making buildings energy-efficient.

Learn more about

What local governments are doing to address this issue.

--Manuela Andreoni

Dallas, which had largely avoided the summer heatwave earlier this year, is now experiencing dangerous heat. The city and its surrounding areas could experience their highest temperatures of the entire year. Temperatures between 105 and 111 degrees Fahrenheit are possible.

Dallas forecasters say that the heat will be drier this week, which should allow for a more efficient cooling system when misting fans are used outdoors. In parts of the Southeast including Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the combination of high temperatures with humidity will push the heat index above 110 most afternoons during this week.

On Monday, the temperature in Phoenix fell below 110 degrees.

In 32 Days

They are likely to rise above 110 again this week as high pressure moves back west.

--Judson Jones