Rizhao 日照 means “sunshine” in Chinese, which is quite an appropriate moniker… Since 2001, Rizhao City (Shandong Province, China) officials have been educating the public and initiating new building regulations to promote the use of solar panels in their city. Traffic lights, street lamps and over 60,000 greenhouses are solar powered. Today, the city of nearly three million has over a half-million square meters of solar water heating panels—99% of households in the central districts use solar water heaters and more than 30% do so in the outlying villages.
Rizhao has a lower per capita income than most other neighboring cities, so Mayor Li Zhaoqian knew the city would have to focus on increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of solar units. Rather than provide subsidies to solar panel users, the government funded industry research and development. Solar water heaters now cost the same as electric alternatives, roughly $190 (4-5% of the annual average income of a household in town, 8-10% of a rural household’s income) and save users money in the long run.