Until his family purchased a solar water heater, Liu Yan bathe the way in which many of the Chinese working class have for generations: boil water, dampen a cloth and clean the dirt.
Today, the 40-year-old mother and her family shower daily and wash the dishes with water hot. The heater of stainless steel set to cost around $220 red tile roof.
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The device has become a symbol of the rise of the standard of living of China and his jump to the era of clean energy.
In the coastal city of 2.8 million inhabitants where Liu lives in Shandong province, 99% of households use solar water heaters. Mattress size gadgets dominate the horizon Rizhao, resting at random in almost all residential roofs.
In the global race to develop green technology and climate change I stem, China has quickly become the leader in the production of solar panels and wind turbines. Also dominates the lesser-known technology of solar water heaters.
Using the principles of solar heating for more than one century old, the humble and low-cost devices consist of a row at an angle of tail of color glass tubes that absorb heat from the Sun. The most common models fill the tubes with cold water. As it heats up, the water rises in an insulated tank where you can stay hot for days.
Devices have improved a lot in recent years that some do not need direct sunlight - so much more valuable in the cities often confusing and smog from China. The newer models have electric heaters inside the water tanks that are turned on if the water is too cold in cold days.
Popular in some parts of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century before becoming obsolete by natural gas cheap, solar heaters are now acclaimed as one of China's largest environmental success stories. More than 30 million homes have devices, representing two-thirds of the solar energy of the world heating water.
The manufacturers are looking to foreign markets, including customers in Southern California.
"China absolutely dominates the global market and have done relatively quiet and without much fanfare", said Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute's Washington headquarters. "It is an interesting example of its capacity to adopt technology that has been developed elsewhere and adapt it to your market on a scale that no one had conceived."
The great development of solar water heaters in China may seem paradoxical in a country that is a world leader in carbon dioxide emissions and in which two-thirds of the rivers and lakes are polluted.
Such is the nature of push China to cope with climate change. In this rapidly developing economy, some of the greatest polluting nation reside next to the biggest renewable energy projects.
Scenes as police of Rizhao and energy-efficient roofs are repeated throughout China, often in the shadows that cast the chimneys of coal and chemical harmful plants. Rizhao is one of a small but growing number number of Chinese cities requiring solar water heaters to be installed or maintained.
"There are two different stories in China," said Barbara Finamore, director of the program of the National Resources Defense Council of China. "There is a dramatic progress." That cannot be denied. "At the same time, they are still building, on average, a new [POWER] burning coal plant every week".
The heating of the water represents a quarter of the power consumption of a typical building. China solar heaters is estimated that they have avoided more than 20 million tons of carbon dioxide that would have been issued annually using electric units.
The heaters will be very necessary if Beijing is to meet its objective of reducing its dependence on coal, which supplies 80% of the energy in the country. The central Government aims to meet 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. Beijing hopes to triple its capacity of solar heater for the same year, according to Greenpeace China.
Benefits of the technology here lies in the ability of financing, the shortage of residential services of natural gas and the modest expectations of consumers, many of whom had never enjoyed hot water in your home before. The departure of one of the outdated devices price is around $220, almost the same as an electric heater in China.