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            Barren lands produce agrivoltaic boom for locals

            China Daily | Updated: 2022-10-25 09:33
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            An agrivoltaics park covering an area of about 80.7 hectares in Linyou's Jiuchenggong township, Shaanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

            XI'AN — Born and raised in the deep mountains, Zhang Liping, a 39-year-old woman hampered by poverty for years, never expected that she would be able to move one day to a comfortable residence and live a better life.

            Zhang's home of Linyou county, Shaanxi province, is a mountainous area on China's Loess Plateau. Inconvenient transportation and a lack of arable land previously hindered the economic development of the small county, which has a population of just 71,000.

            By 2020, China's poverty-alleviation relocation programs for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20) had moved more than 9.6 million people into new homes after lifting them out of poverty.

            Nearly 14,000 residents of Linyou, including Zhang, benefited from the program and bid farewell to their shabby houses in the mountains.

            "Thanks to government subsidies, it cost only 7,500 yuan ($1,070) for my family of three to move to our new home in the summer of 2019," Zhang said.

            Providing follow-up support for relocated residents is of paramount importance. In the Nanfang resettlement community where Zhang lives, there are schools, hospitals and workshops for the newcomers.

            Zhang has a job in a workshop on the top floor of a three-story building in the community, knitting car seat cushions with 20 coworkers.

            "I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematous in 2009, which left me with mobility issues, and my husband was the only breadwinner in the family at the time," Zhang said, adding that she can easily juggle her job and her child's needs. "I am content to have the job and be able to earn 2,500 yuan per month."

            Currently, the county has eight community factories with 500 employees, one-third of whom are relocated residents or people who have been lifted out of poverty.

            Data from the National Rural Revitalization Administration shows that 4.59 million people who were relocated from inhospitable areas and lifted out of poverty were employed in the first half of this year. At least one person in each relocated family with the ability to work has secured employment.

            Efforts have also been made to develop featured industries and improve infrastructure to create job opportunities and extra income for locals in harsh mountains.

            In the past, villagers in Linyou often endured bad harvests due to barren land and a lack of rainfall. But as far as Wang Xiding was concerned, such an environment perfectly met the requirements of the agrivoltaics industry.

            On the slopes beside the road twisting through the mountains in Linyou's Jiuchenggong township, an agrivoltaics park covering an area of about 80.7 hectares was built in 2016. Solar panels are placed on greenhouses in which peppers, corn and grapes are grown and ready for harvest.

            "With an average altitude of 1,250 meters and abundant sunlight, this is an ideal place to develop an agrivoltaics project to produce extra income for local residents," Wang said. He is now general manager of the park's operator and said that it generates an average of 24 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.

            At the end of 2020, the county was linked with expressways, greatly improving transportation. Moreover, free buses running between the industrial park and resettlement communities are available to residents. "There is much more to look forward to in life," Zhang said.


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