intriguing sight

July 30th, 2011

“How could you have not seen this earlier?” you may ask, “after all, Badaling Township is at the southeastern gateway to Yanqing and straddles the shortest route from southern Chaoyang out to your village!” and my answer is that my usual route out to our little village in the northwest of Yanqing takes me through Kangzhuang, thence across what should be the reservoir (it’s a touch on the dry side), and so on the way out I don’t see a lot of the Badaling Township area. On the way back in I follow a variation on that same route, the variation being that I have to take the village road from Kangzhuang to Xibozi to get on the expressway, the Kangzhuang onramp only allowing one to head out towards Zhangjiakou. That variation of the route lets me see a little more of Badaling Township, but not enough to have seen this intriguing sight until about a quarter to twelve this morning.

And now, having jumped the gun, I have you asking “Wait! What intriguing sight? What on earth are you on about?”

A tower, under construction, rising maybe a kilometre to the west of the road from the expressway directly into Yanqing county town. Beams of light, visible thanks to the same haze that hung over Beijing this morning sitting also over the Yanqing basin, shining from the ground up to a point slightly above the height the tower had reached.

“And how, pray tell, could a construction site get you so excited? How long have you lived in China? You’re still not used to the sight of China’s national bird, the construction crane, after all these years? And beams of light shining up from the ground?! I know you didn’t sleep well last night, but if that’s the state you’re in, should you have been in charge of a motor vehicle?!”

Oh, so you’ve forgotten. Understandable, it was two and a half years ago that I badly translated an article I’d come across announcing:

Asia’s first megawatt-level solar powered tower-style thermal electricity generation technology project

will be installed in Yanqing County’s Badaling Township. This experimental solar-powered tower-style electricity generation plant will have an annual generation capacity reaching 2.7 million, equivalent to the generation capacity of over 1100 tons of standard coal and cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by over 2300 tons, sulphur dioxide by 21 tons, and oxides of nitrogen by 35 tons.

The tower I saw was too thin to be used for offices or apartments, and the idea of a highrise of any kind in that location – or even in the county town! – seems absurd. And beams of light shining up from the ground? Heliostats! Awesome!

Umm, yes, so that article I found way back in 2009, and it said:

When construction is completed and the site is online in 2010

Yeah, well, I’ve been looking out for this solar power electricity plant for two and a half years now… I hope what I saw today was a delayed construction of that plant, I really do. I wasn’t able this morning to wander off and try for a closer look, as I’d only taken the county town exit because I had to pick up my brother in law and help him cart some stuff out to the village, and I’m struggling to find any up-to-date news on this long-promised plant. But I’m thinking of ways I could, if nothing else intervenes, perhaps try for a closer look on Monday morning on the way back to Beijing. But at the very least, there are a variety of ways I can vary my route to and from the village so that I can keep an eye on this construction site, and I will be keeping an eye on it, and I certainly do hope it turns into the promised solar power tower.

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