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The World Expo

China's Springboard to a Green Future


China's Springboard to a Green Future


The 2010 Shanghai Expo is designed to serve as China's biggest green technology testing ground, one that will accelerate the green transformation of both Shanghai and China.



China's Springboard to a Green Future

By Shu-ren Koo
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 443 )

Green is currently the most popular color around the globe, nowhere more so than in China. Governments at both the central and local level are all waving the green banner, and the phrase "green transformation" stands out as the country's most politically correct rallying cry.

The World Expo 2010 Shanghai that opens on May 1 is intended to serve as a springboard for the green transformation of China's leading city, and it has already turned Shanghai into China's biggest testing ground for green technologies.

Zhou Fengqi, the director of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Center for Eco-Economy and Sustainable Development, says the "greening of existing industries" and "the industrialization of green technologies" are the two main eco-economy pillars being promoted by Shanghai.

The "greening" of existing industries refers to familiar efforts to conserve energy and reduce emissions while also phasing out high-pollution and high energy-consumption sectors. But the "Action Plan for the Industrialization of New Energy and High Technology" was a new initiative launched by the Shanghai government in mid-2009, targeting five major green energy technologies for development. (Table 1)

The main testing ground for these new energy concepts will be the Shanghai Expo, where they will be promoted and applied regardless of whether or not they are mature.

Proving Ground for ‘Green Transformation'

The Expo site serves as ground zero in Shanghai's green transformation. Straddling the two banks of the Huangpu River, it was once home to power plants, shipbuilding facilities, and printing and dyeing factories, all enterprises that left the soil seriously contaminated. When the Shanghai Expo project began, these heavily polluting facilities were all relocated.

One of the structures taking their place is the Expo Axis, a commercial and transportation corridor that stretches one kilometer from the Expo's Pudong entrance to the banks of the Huangpu River. It is the Expo site's single largest stand-alone structure. A massive white tent-shaped membrane hovers above the corridor and is interspersed with six huge funnel-shaped glass "Sun Valleys," which at first glance appear to be decorative, but in fact capture rainwater and divert sunlight. The rainwater will be channeled to a 7,000 cubic meter storage basin and be used for non-drinking purposes. The "Sun Valleys" will direct sunlight to 10-meter-deep underground galleries, providing natural lighting and saving energy.

Chen Wenlai, a senior architect with the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination's Chief Architect's Office, says the collection and recycling equipment being used for the captured rainwater is not yet mature but has been installed at the Expo for testing and demonstration purposes.

To comply with the "green" theme, the organizers have also required that all pavilions use recyclable or energy-saving building materials, such as mineral wool insulation boards, to reduce the need for air conditioning.

Another energy-conserving feature of the Expo is the use of non-electrical cooling.

The 250 pavilions' air conditioning systems will have compressors driven by natural gas rather than electric power and rely on water drawn directly from the Huangpu River. After being used, the water will be sent back to the river. These technologies are widely used in Japan but remain rare in China. 

Sparking Shanghai's Solar Power Sector

The Expo's two permanent structures – the China Pavilion and the Theme Pavilion – will act as massive green energy generators.

Solar panels will be integrated into the buildings' structures, in such places as the sightseeing platform of the big red China Pavilion and the roof of the Theme Pavilion. The latter will become the biggest solar energy power generator of any structure in Asia, with installed capacity of 2.8 megawatts. The two buildings will not only help power the Shanghai Expo, but will in the future contribute enough power to the city's grid to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 4,500 households.

Zhou Fengqi, of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, says that because Shanghai has not made solar power one of its priority industries, it trails other Chinese cities in its application, but the Shanghai Expo will help narrow the development gap.

After the Expo opens, the 1,200 vehicles to be used on site and for peripheral transportation will be electric cars provided by SAIC Motor, China's largest domestic automaker, representing the first large batch of electric cars to be put into operation in Shanghai. Thus, the Expo will also provide an ideal platform as the launching pad of China's electric car industry.

"This is a market created by the government," says Tse-Kang Leng, a research fellow in Academia Sinica's Institute of Political Science in Taipei.

Beyond elevating Shanghai and China's visibility in the world, the Shanghai Expo amounts to a huge market forged by the Shanghai government to encourage the development of green industries. It lies at the core of the city's aspirations to undergo a green transformation.

Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier